How One Guy 'Hooked' a Small City on Heroin

Clean-cut Ory Joe Johnson changed life in Laramie, Wyoming
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2015 6:00 PM CST
Updated Jan 17, 2015 7:00 AM CST

Laramie, Wyoming is a little city of about 31,000 known for its scenic location and good schools—so how did it and nearby towns fall victim to the nation's heroin trend? You can "thank" one guy, GQ reports: A high-IQ, clean-cut over-achiever named Ory Joe Johnson, who got hooked on drugs and paid for his habit as a dealer. "Before Ory, our major drug cases were mostly meth and weed busts, getting people to buy nickel bags," says a prosecutor. "After Ory? It's everything." At 19, Johnson badly hurt himself in a DUI crash and got addicted to prescription Vicodin. Still hobbling, he turned to meth, and paid for the addiction by dealing. He learned how easy it was: "In less than an hour, I'd made over $1,000," he says. "Within a month, that little town [of Wheatland] was swallowing up eight ounces every week and a half."

He got into trouble with the law, served time, and came out so clean that he started a successful concrete-pouring business. But after a friend died from a fall and a relationship went sour, he hooked up with four university women and got back into dealing—cocaine, crystal meth, then heroin. He stepped "into a different line of people," he says. "Their livelihood depends on guys that come to the plate that are clean-cut, white, drive a nice vehicle with actual insurance and taillights that work." But his drug-use eventually made him paranoid, angry, and violent, court records claim. Finally the law caught up again and he was given a five-year sentence on drug and battery charges. "In this world, everybody's missing something in their lives, and that's why they're doing drugs," he says. "Myself included." (Read the full story.)

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