Harry Potter X old hat here
by San Francisco Examiner – Monday 4 February, 2003
New York City is abuzz over Harry Potter. Not the book, not the movie, not the action figure — the ecstasy tablet.
Monday, NYC detectives uncovered a $6 million, 14-person drug smuggling ring set to move nearly a half-million pills imprinted with the image of the popular children’s hero.
“These Harry Potter brands are targeting a young audience,” a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration told police and the press.
Local clubgoers say Harry’s old hat and that the ecstasy scene has moved on.
“I doubt there’s any audience for those, young or old,” said Mike “Mechanic” B., 24, a queer club regular and occasional purveyor of MDMA (ecstasy) tablets.
“Potter pills are sooo last year.”
Technically speaking, he’s right. Ecstasydata.org, which maintains an online database of branded MDMA pills, first logged the purple, 168mg Potter pill in November 2002. The organization has already logged 1,076 varieties of logo ecstasy, with 30 originating in The City.
“It’s really easy to brand a tablet on a pill press. Dealers imprint black market pills to identify and separate their brands from other pills,” Mike said over breakfast in his Castro home.
J.B., a 35-year-old MDMA dealer who mostly markets his product to the younger rave and dance market, says the reason there are so many different branded pills on the market is simple: Copycats.
“Once a logo is known for being a quality drug, other people will copy that logo to try to sell more of their drug,” J.B. said, “so then you have to create a new imprint.”
Police nationwide have been cracking down on the sale of ecstasy and other club drugs, with local arrests netting huge hauls of hundreds of ecstasy tablets at a time.
According to ecstasydata, ecstasy tablets have debuted in San Francisco bearing the Star of David, the yin/yang, the Motorola and Volkswagen logos, the recycling symbol, and the nationally popular Tweety Bird image.
“I started the Sylvester Cat imprint,” boasts Mike, who has since moved on to ripping off fashion icons.
As in Europe, pills bearing the Louis Vuitton imprint, the Gucci interlocked G, and the Armani logo are popular with The City’s older poppers, he said.
Mike and J.B. don’t agree that the Harry Potter pills are aimed at children, noting that there are already dozens of pills branded with “child” images such as Sylvester Cat, Superman and Mary Poppins.
“We’re not marketing to kids with our logos, we’re just trademarking our product,” J.B. said.
“It’s not like we sat down and created an image, like Joe Camel, in order to attract children. Cigarette companies, now they market to kids.”
Inspector Gavin McEachern, of the SFPD’s Narcotics division, said he has seen a large quantity of blue dolphin-embossed tablets on the street, but that the rising trend is in nonbranded pills and a new, off-white capsule (the latter often adulterated).
“At least when they had those silly logos on them we knew what they were. It clearly wasn’t an Advil or anything,” he said.
“Without the markings, we don’t know if it’s a standard prescription tablet or not. It could be Ritalin, who knows?