For many young men and women, drug dealing is seen as the most straightforward career option. Thanks to the public’s never ending demand for recreational drugs, it is one of the most lucrative for those willing to take the risk. Looking past the legalities, it becomes clear that some drug dealers are nurturing untapped mathematic skills. By Lily Mercer.

Unfortunately these skills are rarely recognised during school time, if at all. Looking back on my own time at secondary school, I recall that one of my classmates was able to answer any maths problem put to him, despite never appearing to do any work. The students knew what he got up to outside of school hours. But the teacher, oblivious to this, always expressed awe at his skill. By the age of thirteen he had been excluded from school. Not that he cares; he drives a Mercedes these days. The point of the story is that this young man was mathematically skilled. Whether this was a natural gift or something he exercised while bagging up skunk, I am unsure. But had he chosen the academic route he would have done fairly well for himself.

“It sounds arrogant but I had a different understanding of it all, they had different ambitions to me. They wanted to be big time shotters and move up classes and that wasn’t me really.”

Another of my classmates chose to follow the academic route. Jason has a degree in Economics and is aiming for a banking career as a broker or trader. He began selling weed at the age of twelve owing to financial difficulties within his family. At such a young age, he struggled to find legitimate work and the prospect of earning £200 a week proved to be far too appealing. But within this world, Jason’s ambition was unique; “I was trying to apply strategies to maximize profits, which is quiet weird at that age. I was aware of trying to make as much money as possible and breaking it down into different amounts.” Already aware of his desire for a banking career, Jason began to save up for courses he needed to achieve his goals, “I always had plans and even at twelve or thirteen I knew I needed a lot of capital to be able to compete.”

While his peers were caught up in the glamour and excitement of dealing, Jason had an entirely different plan in life. “It sounds arrogant but I had a different understanding of it all, they had different ambitions to me. They wanted to be big time shotters and move up classes and that wasn’t me really.” In some situations, he became aware of how advanced his agenda was, even in comparison to his employers. “There were dealers counting with their fingers! But I was fascinated by how much I could bring home and I thought it was important to understand the strategy behind it.”

Eventually the risk began to outweigh the benefits of dealing, particularly the threat of a criminal record, which would inevitably ruin a banking career, “It’s very hard to get rid of that stigma that’s attached to you. Especially since I’m from Hackney and not white.” He has no regrets though, as he draws attention to the similarities between banking and drug dealing, “I’ve always been someone that liked risk and both careers involve risk and numbers. Risk in terms of being a trader for example, it’s totally on your own back; you have to have your own ideas. Being a broker too, you’re always trying to maximize profits, whatever you do. It’s very similar to being a drug dealer.”

“There are few ways that you can learn the skills of being a broker, apart from being a shotter.”

Though not every dealer is good at maths, there are such young men who are using their talent illegally who could be encouraged to put it into a legal career. After all, many drug dealers have only chosen such a career in order to achieve an income. Jobs are scarce and babies have to eat. Class becomes an obvious factor also, as had they been born into a wealthier family, it is unlikely the criminal route would have been an option.

For those that have the skill but not the ambition to enter a career related to maths, a scheme could be introduced in which their skill can be observed. It is highly unlikely that a high profile firm would hire those that have a criminal record; but it is possible that those that have been caught in possession of small amounts of recreational drugs may be considered employable if they are strongly skilled. Such a project could recruit those that have a criminal record for minor drug related offences, to assist in jobs in the mathematic division, whether accountancy, banking or simply working at a till.

For Jason, his early career was influential, preparing him for his future career.  “It’s what made me who I am today and it’s hard for me to put it any other way. There are few ways that you can learn the skills of being a broker, apart from being a shotter. You can’t teach those first skills at such a young age and obviously, it’s illegal.” He agrees that such a project may be an option, “Maths is kind of innate, and it’s hard to identify someone’s skill through drug dealing. But if you have a criminal record and are known to be sound in the mathematical sense, maybe it’s more encouraging to give them some goals to achieve to wipe the slate clean. If they’ve done a minor crime, what’s the point in burning someone with a criminal record for selling a class B drug? They’re going to be unable to get a job or integrate in society and they’ll turn back to doing what they were doing before, which was drug dealing. So maybe doing something more encouraging to get them back in the work place would be good. Give them some kind of ambition to use their skill for positive instead of negative.”

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