Deal Or No Deal?

Rudy Omisore investigates Stop and Sell on the streets of East London.

London is not Amsterdam. You can’t just walk into a cafe, sit down, and order a nice cuppa cha with a dooby and weed brownie on the side. No, you have to know somebody, who knows somebody…

Unless you are in East London that is – where finding your local dealer is easy like Sunday morning, because half the time it is the dealers that find you!

And I have to say, this does annoy me! Like daaamn!! Can’t a girl walk down the street without a guy pulling up in a car and saying, “Excuse me miss do you smoke bud?” or, “What’s goin’ on, luv, you gotta chip?”

Maybe it’s that in the enterprising East End dealers take their business more seriously. And OK, yes, should I ever want to get high with the good ‘ole Mary Jane then it would be very easy to find her here!

But why me? Do I have a tattoo on my forehead saying ‘I want ganja’? Or is it anything to do with the fact that I’m part black?!

Determined to find out once and for all if East London’s dealers are engaging in the sort of racial profiling that we sometimes accuse the police of, I set off to er… Tesco’s in Plumstead.

Why here? Because this bustling, three-way junction that feeds into the residential areas of Plumstead, is where it all goes down. I’ve been approached in the side street here twice while lighting up a cigarette and sorting out my shopping bags, and once more further up the road when out for stroll.

And according to someone I spoke to who works for of one of Plumstead’s main dealers, there are at least a couple more spots around here where deals take place. So it seemed like the ideal location for my experiment.

Well it’s fair to say there was not much happening by Tesco’s on the night I went back, so I walked further up the road until I caught the scent of ganja in the air and followed it like a dog after a bone.

And conveniently the trail led me to a mixed heritage girl just like myself, who was also brazen enough to be smoking weed in public! I quickly introduced myself before she wrote me off as a weirdo, and asked if dealers were also constantly approaching her, and BOOM – yes they were!! So it wasn’t just something about me. But was it something about the colour of my skin?

To test out the idea I decided to recruit my cousin who visits East London once a month to see her boyfriend, since she is the blond haired, blued eyed white opposite of me. And had she been approached by dealers when out gallivanting in Stratford, North Woolwich and Plumstead? No she had not!

OK, so it’s only a small sample, but my hunch is that this just goes to show that drug dealers don’t target the white West End kind of girl when they are scouting for new custom. Nope, they go for people of colour, and if they do go for white people, it will be those that fit the typical unkempt stoner stereotype wearing a baggy Bob Marley T-shirt and sporting a full head of dreadlocks.

But as far as non-whites are concerned, the dealer (as opposed to the police) policy is not so much Stop and Search, more like Stop and Sell.