(UPDATE: Part 2 of this series, “Reconstructing Dreamland” can be found here.)
In the wake of Electric Zoo being canceled on its final day due to some unfortunate drug overdoses, I thought it was time someone from within the music business spoke up. Unfortunately, most people in the music business are devoid of swirling, spherical sacks of awesome, tucked between their legs. However, since I officially left the music business last Tuesday, I have no qualms about airing my former dirty laundry. The business of Electronic Dance Music, colloquially known as EDM, has a huge problem. People are dropping dead like flies. The following essay isn’t a smoking gun; it’s a fucking nuclear onslaught.
First things first: MDMA and “Molly” are two different things. I know what MDMA is, because I can use Wikipedia. Molly is something wholly different – because the person consuming it never really knows what they are taking. In my lifetime, I have done Molly more times than I can count, and I have never taken the same drug twice. It’s not like marijuana, cocaine, or psilocybin mushrooms, where you know what you’re getting. At least if my blow has been stomped on by more Mexican drug dealers than the entire cast of “Breaking Bad,” I’ll know the worst I’m putting in my nose is baby formula, some Bayer, and then maybe a tiny bit of cocaine. We’ve all had a bag of shitty weed – and yeah, it might give you a headache, but it’s not going to kill you.
Molly isn’t like that.
Molly is an anonymous powder, sometimes in bags, and sometimes in capsules. You can snort it or ingest it – whatever tickles your fancy. There have been times I have taken Molly and then said to myself, “Oh shit, this is definitely crystal meth.” Sometimes I’ve been like, “Whoa, this is totally heroin.” Other times I’ve thought, “Oh fuck. This is one of those alphabet soup nBOME hallucinogens.” Or perhaps, “Is this fucking bath salts?” No matter what it was, it was called Molly – and that’s why it’s inherently dangerous. I’m all about doing drugs, don’t get me wrong – I just like knowing what the hell I’m putting into my body.
I should note that I also used to sell Molly, and not in a small way. I’ve sold it in multiple cities, and it’s always to the same crowd: EDM fans and festival attendees. In order to really understand Molly, you need to understand that Molly and EDM are hopelessly intertwined. Molly and EDM are the Stockton and Malone of nightlife for the sub-30 crowd. In a twisted turn of events, I realized selling Molly was more lucrative than being a promoter, or even being the manager of the artists on stage. If you find the right supplier, your profit margins can hold as high as 6 to 1 against your cost. It’s not just obscenely lucrative, it’s HOLY SHIT lucrative. Attendees of an EDM event may pay $20 for a typical event ticket, but they’ll spend another $50 on a gram of Molly. That’s $50 that doesn’t get split with the venue, promoter, artist, or anyone else.
The rise of Molly can be traced back to German Shepherds – allow me to explain. Police dogs are trained to sniff out cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and probably a few other drugs too. However, they totally miss on Molly. I realized sometime around 2005 that people were getting caught going into dance music venues with cocaine and marijuana, but you could walk in the door without a problem if you had Molly. Back then, we still called it MDMA, and it usually came in pill form. As far as I can tell, there is no difference between ecstasy and Molly, because no one knows what the fuck is in either.
When it was in pill form, I could usually get 100-200 into a venue on any given night. How do you sneak 200 pills into a venue without getting caught in a pat down? Use your shirt. Take any t-shirt you have, and examine the bottom seam. If you were to put a small hole in the interior of the bottom seam, you could conceivably slip 200 pills into the tube that is conveniently built into the bottom of your shirt – and as a bonus, no bulges, and bouncers don’t know to look there. Most bouncers will ask you to lift your arms in the air while they pat you down, and when this happens, the bottom of your shirt goes up – and they look in your waistband for guns, knives and other goodies.
Remember Stockton and Malone? You can’t have the pick without the roll. The screen doesn’t work without the pass to the lane. You can’t pick-n-pop without the pop. EDM doesn’t exist without club drugs, because a majority of the culture and event is built around “letting go” and “rolling” at events. Secondly, the entirety of the EDM economy was built upon the complex relationships between drug dealers and promoters.
Sometime around 2009, dubstep became the catalyst that blew EDM into the stratosphere. Around this time, I became a “sub-promoter” at events in Eugene, Ore., San Francisco, and Atlanta (and to a lesser extent, Brooklyn, N.Y.). Rather than work as a promoter, the promoters and I would enter into an agreement: I’d put my friends in their venues to sell Molly, and they would get a percentage of the profits in exchange for laundering my money. It was a perfect situation, because promoters have a unique capability to make drug money disappear. Several hundred, sometimes several thousand, people can come through the door of any given EDM event, and most of them pay cash. After the event, it’s easy to cook the books and boost your attendance with the cash received from drug money. In this case, everyone wins.
The agents win because their shows have artificially inflated attendance numbers, due to the false attendance reporting. This allows them to command higher guarantees.
The promoters win because they collect at the door, and a percentage of the Molly sold in the venue. The extra money they get allows them to buy better talent in the future and boost their profit margins.
The security wins because any “non-promoter-approved” Molly dealer is thrown out and/or arrested, so they keep appearances with local law enforcement.
The drug dealers win because their product is sold in a monopolized environment, free of competition, where they are free to set the price.
The venue wins because they can avoid the rave laws and feign ignorance.
The artists win because they’re playing to packed houses full of young people losing their minds and dancing on drugs.
This brings me to Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. There are some inherent problems in unregulated markets with huge amounts of money changing hands. The first and most obvious problem is something I already went over, but it bears repeating: No one knows what the fuck is in Molly except the person cooking it – and we’re not talking about Heisenberg here. I’m talking about Todd being the cook, aka Meth Damon. During my time as a Molly dealer, I met the people making Molly, and they’re not rocket scientists. Most of them are meth cooks entering their second career. Meth may have been vilified by the Montana Meth Project, but Molly is cool, and it’s fun, and everyone should do it.
Molly is just whatever the hell these guys want Molly to be. Pure MDMA is expensive to produce, but designer drugs like 2CI and 2CB can be mixed with a little crystal meth and viola. We have found Molly.
In 2010, I witnessed my first death from a Molly overdose at a venue in Charlotte, N.C. Interestingly enough, the young woman’s death was later attributed to a heart problem – which I found laughable, and depressing. Her heart did have a problem, but the problem was likely a cocktail mix of uppers, downers, and muscle relaxers. If that young woman hadn’t taken Molly, I know for a fact she’d still be alive today. Before she died, I remember her being taken into the green room to “cool down,” and her friends began giving her water. Within 15 minutes, she was vomiting everywhere, prompting one of the DJ’s performing that night to scream, “Get that drunk cunt out of here!” It’s sad to think that the last words she might have coherently heard might have been “Get that drunk cunt out of here.”
After her death, it was a little sobering, but I felt numb about the whole situation. I wasn’t the person who sold her the drugs, so in my mind, she just got “bad Molly” – which I would later learn is “all Molly,” because there is no such thing as “good Molly.” Ref: Above. It’s all bullshit. The promoter and I later discussed it, and I remember him remarking something to the effect of, “some people just can’t handle their drugs.”
As EDM events grew, festivals started popping up as if they were fed Cialis. Every promoter I knew found an investor, and suddenly had a two- or three-day event with over 100 DJs performing. Attendees went in with the expectation of doing drugs. The demographic we’re talking about here is almost all people between the ages of 18-25, and everyone wanted Molly. Once again, the same promoters I worked with before would let me in to sell drugs in exchange for a percentage of what I sold. In order to maintain appearances, security was strict at the entrance, often arresting other drug dealers with several ounces of Molly. Of course, I got there several hours before security showed up, and the people selling my drugs were always attractive women – not grungy hippies with dreadlocks. My girls were never bothered by police, because there is no way attractive women would ever sell drugs, right?
The genius behind what I did was understanding comfort: Very few undercover cops are attractive, young women. By default, guys were more willing to talk to them, and young women trusted them because they didn’t think it was just some dude trying to feed them roofies and rape them. I never personally sold drugs – because I was in the back with a VIP lanyard on, smoking weed, enjoying the show, and spending time with the DJs I managed. I let attractive young women sell drugs for me, and in exchange, they got to be popular, and also got free drugs to give to their friends.
Social stigmas don’t really exist with Molly, and giving it away, or having it around doesn’t seem like a problem – because it is so highly glamorized by the music industry. There are songs about it, and “rolling” is something that is completely socially acceptable in the EDM circle. Additionally, the demand is so high, that it crosses the majority threshold. If you’re attending a large EDM event, I would wager that over half of the people in attendance will consume Molly before, during, or after the event – at an afterparty.
When an entire subculture adopts a drug en masse, the supply market soon follows – it just happened to take Molly a moment to ramp up production. When the production met the demand, and the professional drug dealers got involved, Molly went from being a mostly harmless club drug pushed by harmless frat bros, to something trafficked in the same way cocaine and heroin are – by cartels.
I first witnessed wholesale cartel tactics at Ultra in Miami. Ultra, depending on who you ask, is the largest EDM festival in the world. Over 100,000 people come to Miami to listen to music and experience the event – and the majority of those people are not native to Miami. That means the Molly isn’t coming with them, because driving long distances, or flying with controlled substances is too risky – and that’s when you see drug dealers start competing for your business.
Make no mistake about it: When drug dealers compete, everyone loses. In a completely deregulated market, violence is the only control mechanism, so while you’re having fun “rolling,” various innocent people are becoming the victims of crime.
A “small time” Molly dealer I know went to Ultra this year, thinking he could turn a quick profit. After selling a small amount of Molly to someone he didn’t know, he was led away at gunpoint, through a crowd, by men he didn’t know. As it turns out, it was a Haitian gang known as Zoe Pound – and they informed him that they would be selling Molly, not him. They then stole all his drugs, money, and fractured his femur with a tire iron. He called me from the hospital because he wanted to get revenge – which is completely stupid. I have done a bunch of stupid shit in my life, but starting a gang war isn’t one of them.
Was my friend innocent? Not at all. He was selling a controlled substance, and had he been caught by law enforcement, he would have faced consequences. His problem was being caught by his competitors. I have no doubt that someone involved with the Ultra festival has taken money to allow various groups to sell drugs at Ultra, because otherwise it wouldn’t be the same. If young people can’t find drugs at an EDM event, all you’ll hear on Twitter is “Dude this festie is so lame. I should have gone to Generic Festival Name instead”.
I know for a fact the TomorrowWorld 2013 is being supplied Molly by my former supplier, because I talked with him about it two months ago when I was in Atlanta. I expect that local law enforcement has already been paid to turn a blind eye, the people selling the Molly will arrive before security ever gets there, and no one at TomorrowWorld will have a hard time “finding Molly.” Of course, I’m not sure who got paid, or which person is responsible for bringing it in, but it will without a doubt be there, and there is nothing law enforcement can do to stop it.
Why? Because you can’t search every roadie case, the interior of each speaker, or every bundle of cables. My former supplier boasted that he thinks he can sell five pounds of Molly over three days in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., the site of TomorrowWorld.
In order to understand what five pounds of Molly really means, let’s think about it in terms of one gram bags, sold for $50 each.
There are 28 grams in one ounce, and 16 ounces to a pound, and he’s saying he’ll sell at least five pounds . . . so . . . carry the eight, plus two . . . eight again . . . two times six . . . take that and… HOLY SHIT.
$112,000 – gross. Of course, he probably had to pay police, security, someone connected to the promoter, a few people to sell it, bribes, etc. I’ll assume he’ll still clear $100,000. He’s like a real life Walter White – no wonder “Breaking Bad” is so popular. It’s real.
Is he kidding? I mean, he can’t possibly make this kind of money selling drugs over the course of a weekend, right? Well, TomorrowWorld is projecting 50,000 people per day in attendance, and five pounds is 35,840 grams – so it’s not actually just possible he’ll sell five pounds. It’s probable.
How many of those people are going to die due to complications of heat, medication interactions, neurological problems, etc? It’s tough to say. Most toxicology reports don’t check for the “alphabet soup” drugs like the nBOMEs I mentioned earlier – so if someone dies at TomorrowWorld from a drug overdose, it will more than likely be attributed to heat stroke, or another heat-related problem.
We live in an extremely litigious society, and few people are going to admit they took drugs with their friends, and then their friend died. You don’t want to get sued for neglect, or be accused of selling the drugs that killed your friend. That’s the dark side of Molly – when people die, everyone runs into plausible deniability land, and never returns.
The last point I want to make about Molly is where it gets really dark: Molly is getting more and more popular by the day, because it is socially acceptable. You’d be crazy to offer someone cocaine at a dance club, because you’re not Tommy Lee, and this isn’t 1989. However, if you’re at a show and you offer someone Molly, that’s OK. Drug dealers know this. A few weeks ago I was in Atlanta, and I needed to buy some cocaine for a musician friend – so I called my old blow man . . . only to have him inform me he had moved into the Molly business.
So I called my backup guy, the dude who used to live next door to me. He wasn’t a cocaine dealer, just a guy who did it recreationally. I said, “Hey (name redacted), you got any white?” He replied, “Naw man, but I got some Molly.”
This is the juncture of bad and worse. As kids, we got told in D.A.R.E. that cocaine, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol were bad for you – but my D.A.R.E. officer didn’t say shit about Molly, because Molly didn’t exist in the common vernacular.
Someone said on Twitter the other day, I forget who, that “Molly is the new cocaine” – to which I thought, “No, cocaine is cocaine.” Molly is something much worse, because you can’t grow coca plants in Southern Illinois, or Northern Arizona. Cocaine is something that is actually hard to obtain, because the raw materials just don’t exist here. If you want to make bathtub Molly, just head down to your local pool supply store, maybe an office supply store . . . and you know what, get some of the stuff from Home Depot too. Experiment in your bathtub for a bit, and see what happens.
I didn’t quit the music business because my segment of EDM was hopelessly wrapped around designer drugs. I quit for personal reasons.
I also don’t want people to read this essay and conclude that everyone involved in EDM is complicit in selling drugs to young people – some people do it the right way. I tried to do it the right way for the past 16 months. I didn’t sell drugs, and I tried to keep people with drugs out of my events. I didn’t associate with people who cooked Molly. I managed artists the right way, and tried to run a clean business – but the pragmatic realities looked me dead in the eye at the end: If you don’t have Molly at your events, and you don’t sell Molly, your patrons will go to other events where they can find drugs more easily.
If you’re not engaging the Molly business or allowing Molly to be sold at your events, you are tacitly acknowledging that you will have lower profit margins than your competition, and eventually, your competition will beat you.
On Halloween, 2011, I attended Neon Halloween in Atlanta. It was promoted by a friend of mine named M.J. (M.J. – I’m not implicating you here. You do clean business, and I love you for it.), and the lineup was ridiculous – DMX was the headliner, and my friend Daniel Pollard, better known as Heroes X Villains was one of the support acts. My friend Brandon and I were having a great time at the event, until I made a fateful trip to the bathroom.
I saw two young men standing next to the far wall. One was standing, and the other was hunched against a wall. I figured the young man hunched against the wall was just drunk, so I proceeded to saunter over toward the urinal. As I started to pee, the man against the wall started convulsing. As an epileptic, I knew he was having a seizure, so I did that thing where I try to pee as fast as humanly possible. I zipped up my pants and ran over to the young kid, whose friend was panicking, trying to get his friend to quit convulsing.
“What did he take?”, I asked. The guy looked at me blankly and said, “We just took some Molly man. I don’t want to get in trouble. Please don’t tell anyone about this.”
The young man on the floor was still convulsing, and as he was convulsing, he started to choke on his tongue. I grabbed a few paper towels from the dispenser, and pulled his tongue out so he would quit choking. Around this time, my friend Brandon came looking for me – and as he walked in I heard an audible, “What the fuck?!”
About 30 seconds later, the young man quit convulsing, and became conscious again. He wasn’t making much sense, he slurred all his words, and I knew he needed to be at a hospital – and this is the only part of the night I regret: I didn’t call an ambulance. I decided to drive him myself to Grady.
Brandon and I carried him out of the venue with his friend behind us, and we told his buddy to meet us at Grady. On the way to Grady, the young man had two more seizures, and vomited again in the back seat. About one minute before I arrived, Brandon informed me that the kid had stopped breathing.
In my mind, everything got slow. I started having trouble breathing. I was freaking out, because I didn’t want to be the person dropping off an overdosing kid at the Emergency Room. I didn’t know his medication allergies, his date of birth . . . or even his name.
That’s when it really hit me: This kid was one of those people we hear about, the ones that aren’t your friends. They’re the “stupid” kids who can’t handle their drugs and overdose. Except he wasn’t someone else. This was a real person, dying in the back of my Honda, on my friend Brandon’s lap.
We arrived at Grady, and thankfully some EMT’s were hanging out, chatting outside. When we pulled his limp body out of the back seat, they sprung into action like they’d never even been having a conversation – of course, it’s Grady, so I’m sure they’re used to seeing much worse. (Grady: Number 1 in Trauma Treatment – Yay stabbings and shootings?)
That night at the hospital, the young man’s friend never showed up. When he finally got stable, we learned his name, and he called his family. His mother and father thanked Brandon and I for all we had done, and at some point during the night, his father returned and handed Brandon and me each a $50 Chili’s gift card – which actually sorta made me wish I had let the kid die. (Just kidding, but seriously though – Chili’s is the worst thing to ever happen to anyone, ever.)
I wish I was the only person with a story like that – but I’m not. In fact, I think more than a few of us have a “Molly story.” but no one talks about it, because dissenting and saying Molly is dangerous makes you “look like a square.” Some guy you know who knows some guy makes “pure” MDMA, and that’s what YOU take – right? “I’d never take bad Molly. You can’t overdose on real MDMA.”
If you have to keep telling yourself that lie, fine. But I’m here to let you know, I’m the dude who used to tell people that lie. That’s what drug dealers do. They tell you that what you’re getting is the best shit, and it’s perfectly safe – and that’s how they keep you coming back.
There is no such thing as pure Molly. Only pure bullshit – and you’ve been sold a ton of it.