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Finally, in July, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a law banning K2 — one of eight statewide bans signed into law this year. But Riggs wasn't worried about complying with the law. By then, he already knew that there was more than one way to keep his customers happy.
When Riggs wonders whether a new product is ready for market, he has to rely on friends. As a businessman, he is in the odd position of being unable to evaluate his own wares because, he says, he has never been high. He doesn't even drink.
Riggs was raised in a traditional Mormon household where liquor, drugs and cigarettes were off-limits. And for the first 10 years of his life, which he spent moving from town to town in Southern California chasing his father's job, Riggs accepted this. But before he was a teenager, he started to grow skeptical.
"Mormons have to wear special underwear to protect them. They believe the Garden of Eden is in Missouri — the actual Garden of Eden," he says, rattling off some of Mormonism's most ridiculed tenets. "There's Baptism of the Dead, where the youth meet in this big pool with 12 sculptures of oxen around it representing these 12 tribes of Israel, and you're supposed to get baptized for all those people who didn't have the privilege to be Mormon. I remember thinking, 'Cool. I'll get to be Babe Ruth!' Then I really thought about it, and it didn't seem right. At all. I told my parents I didn't want to be a Mormon anymore when I was 10."
He left the faith but he retained the abstinence, he says. His family moved to Kansas when he was 12, and Riggs wound up enrolling at KU. College was the first time that he saw anyone on drugs; his freshman-year roommate smoked with friends, but Riggs waved away the pipe.
Riggs loved his classes — he majored in East Asian studies — but he soon discovered that he wasn't built for academic life. On test days, he says, he would sit in classes staring at the blank essay book. He'd finally start writing with an hour left on the clock and, on a good day, finish with one page filled.
"I had one professor come up to me and point-blank say, 'Listen, a lot of people just BS this. Just write something,'" he says. "I couldn't do it. I didn't want my name on it if it wasn't something new, something that I thought was really me coming up with something new. And the more books I read, all I was sure of was that I didn't know shit. That's how I ended up going into therapy."
Psychologists diagnosed Riggs with attention-deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, general anxiety disorder, and a few other tics that made basic academic work seem impossible. He dropped out and started working one menial job after another. His dream was to one day finance a film about a community-college student who starts performing as Jesus Christ at kids' birthday parties.
"Later on, a doctor told me that I had a perfect profile to become someone who abused drugs and alcohol," he says. "So all and all, it's probably been for the best that I never touched it."
Coffee Wonk's biggest night was the night its most popular product became illegal.
It was a Friday in August — a month after Gov. Nixon signed the law criminalizing K2 in Missouri. At exactly midnight, the ban on K2 would take effect.