Rolling Out

Former drug dealer Ricky Ross says US complicit in drug trade


Freeway Ricky Ross was one of the most notorious drug dealers of the 1980s. At the height of his career, he made close to $1 million per day selling cocaine.

Ross was introduced to the cocaine business during the early 1980s and soon became business partners with a Nicaraguan supplier. Reportedly, the supplier was allowed to distribute cocaine to poor black neighborhoods by the C.I.A. The money gained from the drug sales went to a Nicaraguan army that fought a communist regime in the Central American country.

Ross was eventually used as a pawn in the scheme and eventually sentenced to life in prison for running one of the most elaborate drug operations in America.

After losing everything during his time in prison, Ross was eventually released. He spoke with rolling out about the false notion that every drug dealer is rich, the U.S. government’s involvement with cocaine dealing and his new film, Freeway: Crack in the System.

You were one of the biggest drug dealers in the nation. But the U.S. government also played a key role in the drug trade. How did all of this connect?  

We can say that the government did admit that they were allowing these guys to bring drugs into this country, they put it on their own report. And now we have 600,000 young black men in prison for selling the same drugs that they got after the crack cocaine epidemic kicked off. Because once [the government] kicked it off, any fruit that’s derived from that tree is still on that same vine. So even though these guys may have not sold a drug that I sold in the 1980s, they are still a part of what went on.

What is the biggest myth about drug dealing?

Most drug dealers don’t get rich, it’s only a handful that get rich — it’s not widespread like most people think. Most people think that selling drugs is easy, but I know that it’s tough. It’s tough to get up every morning and saying that this could be the day that you have to kill somebody or this could be the day that somebody might kill you. Or you might go to prison for the rest of your life, so it’s really a tough business.

How did the documentary, Freeway: Crack in the System, come about?

Marc Levin had come to see me when I was in prison and we started talking about doing a documentary. He had me look at some of his stuff he did such as Bangin’ in Little Rock, Slam, Brick City. While Marc and I started to work on our film, BET had contacted me about the “American Gangster” series. But once I saw the BET series, I realized they left out a lot of key facts. They still didn’t get the entire story right, so there was an opportunity to really tell the story how it should be told.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Join our Newsletter

Sign up for Rolling Out news straight to your inbox.

Read more about:
Also read
Rolling Out