Sitting at a table in the dining area of the Kimmel Center for University Life, Kilroy empties out a bag of Doritos onto a lunch tray. With the crumbs safely on the table, he slips a small, black cylinder into the crumpled package. He sends a quick text, and within two minutes, a girl approaches the table. Smiling coyly, she snatches up the repurposed bag of chips and after a brief, friendly exchange she quickly leaves.
He looks around nervously for a second, but then catches my eye and grins. Another successful drug deal right under the nose of NYU’s administration.
“I think they’re not looking, but I treat them as if they are,” Kilroy said of the people running NYU, whose offices are only a couple of floors above. “You have to know where the cameras are.”
But he doesn’t just deliver directly to residence hall or your study nook in the library. Kilroy, along with his band of merry misfits — three students from other colleges around the city who also go by the moniker Kilroy, traverse the city, moving weed on foot, bicycle, scooter and boosted board, catering to a diverse clientele.
“We’re moving to all of the schools at NYU, we’re moving to Parsons, we’re moving to Columbia,” he said. “We have one guy who has got to be over 70. Some former Broadway pit musician. Really cool guy.”
However, with his rapidly growing customer base comes obstacles, namely, the knowledge that moving significant quantities of weed, like Kilroy does, could have serious consequences if the police were to get involved. Because of that, Kilroy spends a lot of time thinking about security — consulting with two cybersecurity experts to insulate his operation.
Numerous layers of security stand between him and even the most minor exposure of his identity, including but not limited to: five burner phones which are currently in circulation between the four Kilroys, an encrypted USB containing an entire secure operating system and a second, hidden and even more secure computer that never has and never will connect to the internet, known as an air gapped computer, used to log all activity.
It wasn’t always like this. The stakes weren’t always as high. When his business first started, it was just him re-distributing half ounces of weed that he would buy from a delivery service — using his dorm room as his center of operations. Suffering from terrible insomnia, Kilroy said he would get bored and hungry at night, and figured it would pass the directionless time and cover the costs of his late night caloric demands.
“I didn’t need [the money] but it was nice not to have to go to the Third North Dining Hall to buy chicken breasts to microwave and eat with plastic cutlery at night,” Kilroy said. “So I looked at it and I was like, ‘oh, I have an idea.’”
With a profit margin of $3,600 per pound, Kilroy couldn’t help but put his foot on the gas. The business expanded, he told me between bong hits, and with the growth has come danger.
“When we move from distributors in the city, we run into some unsavory characters,” he said. “The risks are mine. If I misread a social cue in the room, I can get shot.”
But Kilroy said threats to his personal safety aren’t the only drawbacks of this lifestyle.
“It’s stressful to lie to my parents and my family but they would not approve,” he said. “I have fairly liberal parents but I think they would stop aiding my tuition. That’s the risk. But I think the rewards are better.”
He recognized that if he wasn’t white, the risks would be much different. The discriminatory enforcement of drug policies disproportionately punishes communities of color, and Kilroy finds himself omitted from those targeted populations.
“A lot of people do this because they don’t have a choice; like, they really don’t have a choice,” Kilroy said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m taking it for granted or I’m taking advantage, but ultimately what I’m doing isn’t putting them at higher risk.”
For many, drug dealing can lead to years of incarceration. But for Kilroy, selling weed has manifested itself quite nicely in the form of a comfortable apartment and an ability to fund an extravagant social life.
“I get to meet all of these people, I get to smoke with all of these people, I get to see everyone at their most relaxed — in some ways, it’s the appeal of being a bartender,” Kilroy said. “I’m not broke.”
Email Jemima McEvoy at [email protected]