Nina nervously taps her fingers across the steering wheel. Her chest heaves. Her breathing convulses as her sleek red Toyota Camry passes through a well-lit construction zone. Nina’s nervous because her car is packed with just-baked, marijuana-laced cookies her clients crave.
Nina leaves the radio turned off. She doesn’t want to have to deal with any distractions while she makes her deliveries. She fixes her eyes on the road, still tapping her fingers across the steering wheel. The tapping produces a dissonant sound that accentuates the apprehension swirling inside the car. “I always feel like someone is following me,” says Nina, peeking through her rearview mirror.
“The hardest part about selling illegal drugs is – selling illegal drugs,” she murmurs.
On a breezy February evening, the sweet aroma of a Pumpkin Spice air-freshener sashays its way around the kitchen corner. Click-clack, click-clack, the sound of a large metal spoon pummels the insides of the bowl. “Can you hand me the baking soda,” asks 24-year-old Nina, founder of a flourishing edible marijuana delivery service. It is “Pumpkin Friday” and that means one of her clients’ favorites, Pot Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, are scheduled for delivery today.
Dressed in a colorful floral knee-length dress, a soft brown cotton cardigan, and nude colored oxford shoes, her wardrobe is hidden underneath a multicolored cupcake apron with a dark pink neck strap. “My mom has her own bakery and she bought me this apron, I love it,” says Nina. “Whenever I bake, I wear it. Everything I know about baking, I learned from watching her over the years. The only difference in our baking style is our primary active ingredient. For her it is an extra dash of sweetness and for me…. well…it’s marijuana.”
One egg, six teaspoons, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a pepper of pumpkin, and a cup of cannabis butter later the oven is set to 375 degrees and the cookies are ready for their tan.
Nina looks at the time on her cellphone. It is 6:25 p.m.. “We have 15 minutes before the cookies are ready,” Nina says, as she plops down on a pillow palette in front of a six-foot-tall wood storage case that houses her film collection. Her films are aligned alphabetically: comedy, horror, indie, romance, suspense, thriller and TV sitcom serials.
“See this shelf right here,” she asks, pointing to the vacant bottom shelf. “By the end of this year, I will have 10 of my very own short-films occupying this space. The genre will be something like neorealism: films that make you realize something new, that you thought you understood completely. My film collection is my motivation. I deal marijuana because I am passionate about achieving my film dreams by any means.”
Nina grabs Season 1 of the Showtime Original Series, “Weeds,” from her film case.
“This show inspired my edible marijuana business plan. I didn’t want to be a typical dealer, so I decided to only sell weed in the form of edibles and I always deliver. My policy is simple: never sell loose weed, and never let the customer know where I live,” she says.
With $2,500 in savings, Nina and her boyfriend moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue her passion for filmmaking. After becoming acquainted with the local weed dispensary, Nina purchased her first edible marijuana brownie. “I wanted to try edibles because the high will last for a longer period of time. Although the brownie was $15, I was too curious to leave it behind and I am glad I didn’t because that brownie was amazing,” says Nina.
After financial hardships, Nina and her boyfriend were forced back into Texas. “Moving back to Texas was a major setback, but I was willing to do anything to get back to L.A. – anything,” she says.
The edible marijuana delivery service became the “anything.” After launching the business with her popular Pot Chocolate Brownies, Nina has added Pot Pumpkin Chocolate Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cannabis Cookies to her Stoner Cookbook. “I knew the only way back to L.A. was going to be through the distribution of fifteen dollar brownies...lots of them,” she continued.
A high octave buzzer tells Nina’s it’s 6:40 p.m. “Smells like money,” she says, rubbing her hands together mischievously. Nina reaches for two pink oven mittens and pulls the cookie tray out of the oven. She grabs a cream-colored toothpick and pokes it into the center of the cookie. If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done. If it doesn’t, it’s not done--easy peasy,” she says, lifting the toothpick out of the cookie dough. “Now, we let them cool, and then we will be ready for delivery.”
A short stack of unassembled cardboard cake boxes sit in the corner of Nina’s kitchen. On top of the boxes lie two unopened packages of small pumpkin stickers, some with glitter, some without. “I have this weird obsession with pumpkins,” Nina laughs. “I visited a pumpkin patch once and immediately fell in love. Pumpkins possess a certain type of peace and serenity. So whenever you see me, you see pumpkins.”
She grabs one flattened white cardboard cake box and begins the assembling process. Once completed, she picks up a silver spatula and begins placing the freshly baked Pot Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies in the box one by one. She closes the lid, and attaches a sparkly pumpkin sticker to the front of the box. “Hipsters love this quirky shit,” she says, fastening another pumpkin sticker to secure the box’s opening “It’s showtime,” she says.
It is 7:30 p.m. A forest-fresh scent of pine lingers from the Little Trees air-freshener hanging from the car’s rearview mirror. “I like rich scents to overpower the potent smell of weed,” says Nina. “I never want my car to smell of marijuana, that raises suspicion.”
The inside of the car is spotless. The cup holders. Empty. The backseat. Bare. Nina slides the cookies under the driver’s seat, hidden beneath the night’s darkness. Nina instructs me to buckle up, and starts the ignition.
She does not turn on the radio. She doesn’t want to have to deal with any distractions while she makes her deliveries. Nina fixes her eyes on the road, tensely tapping her fingers across the steering wheel. The tapping produces a discordant sound that seems to accentuate the apprehension swirling inside the car. “I always feel like someone is following me,” says Nina, peeking through her rearview mirror.
After leaving her campus apartment, we enter onto the freeway heading I-35S towards Dallas. At 60 mph, Nina hits cruise control. “The last thing I need is to get pulled over for speeding,” she says.
As we pass a local movie theatre formerly known as The Rave, Nina reminisces on her first attempt at a public drug deal. After running late, Nina hesitantly agreed to meet her customer in the ticket line of the movie theatre parking lot. One Pot Chocolate Brownie was wrapped neatly in thick layers of clear saran wrap. The gram of OG Kush embedded within the brownie, was hidden behind the layers. “A security guard standing about 10 feet away from us glanced our way, but I handed the brownie to my customer when he turned away— or at least I thought. Suddenly he began walking towards us. My heart sank,” says Nina.
“Excuse me miss, no outside food or drinks, allowed in the theatre. I can hold on to that brownie if you’d like, but I can’t guarantee it will be here when you get out, especially if it is chocolate fudge,” Nina recalls.
After a very close encounter with jail-time, Nina never did a public exchange again. “You win some, you lose some,” she says, glancing again through her rearview mirror.
Nearing the outskirts of Dallas, traffic gets congested. Drivers swerve in and out of traffic lanes. A white Ford pickup truck jumps in front of Nina’s car. She slams on the brakes. “GoddddDammit,” Nina shrieks, as she plows the palm of her right hand onto the face of the car horn. “I hate the way these people drive. They act like they are the only ones who have somewhere to be! Can you check the cookies and make sure they are okay?”
The cookies had not moved.
At 8:24 p.m. incandescent blue, red, and yellow flashing lights cast a reflection on Nina’s windshield. Nina looks paralyzed with fear. Up ahead: two police cars, a team of construction laborers, a tall construction spotlight, and a blinking construction sign inform drivers of upcoming lane closures. “Aw shit,” says Nina, exhaling air temporarily trapped in her lungs.
One minute later, the anxiety-laden light show exists only in Nina’s rearview mirror. “Every time I see flashing lights while driving, my heart skips a beat, my body freezes, and the entirety of my being becomes overwhelmed with fear.”
A few minutes later, Nina takes the Main St. exit towards Deep Ellum in Downtown Dallas. She stops her car outside a small brick house illuminated by a white porch light. Two spray-painted green lawn chairs and a wooden table sit on the front porch.
Nina parks near the mailbox and turns off the ignition. She peeks through the rearview mirror before stepping out of the car.
“Wait here, I’ll be right back,” she says, grabbing the cookies in the backseat. She walks briskly towards the front door, a slight bounce in her step. Knocking on the door, she looks over her right and left shoulder to make sure no one was behind her. The front door opens and a slim, white female gestures Nina into the dimly lit house. Nina disappears.
Twelve minutes later, Nina returns to the driver’s seat. “Sixty bucks, just like that,” she says, fastening her seat belt.
She inserts a CD and plays the hit single “I Gotta Feeling,” by The Black Eyed Peas, a hip-house pop group. Nina turns up the volume to feel the music.
“I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night
“That tonight’s gonna be a good night
“That tonight’s gonna be a good, good night
“I gotta a feeling, woo hoo, that tonight’s gonna be a good night…”
Nina chants and dances along to the music, hitting the dashboard like a pair of congas. “I just love this song so much, and I always play it after I complete a delivery,” she says, swaying to the beat. “It’s my success song.”
At 8:45 p.m. Nina peeks through her rearview mirror one last time before getting back on the freeway heading back to Denton. The speedometer hits 60 mph, but Nina doesn’t push cruise control this time.