Lagunitas, Calif., 1971: There are dealers who are in it
only for the money. I met two of that kind who agreed to
tape an interview.
"My frustrations and my anxieties are basically
the same as any forty-year-old cat who has a 20 year
mortgage on his house, working eight hours a day.
The responsibilities are just tremendous."
The 670 pounds of grass they had brought up with them from
Mexico was stashed downstairs in the cellar of the distributor's
house in Forest Knolls. The grass was terrible -- dry, bulked
out with tobacco, pressed into bricks as hard as stone.
Here is what they had to say about what they were doing:
How did you get started on this trip?
1st Smuggler: I began smoking dope in 1965 in Vietnam.
I don't know how many guys were smoking it at that time,
but we used to send it home in the hold baggage boxes and
it was never checked -- 70 and 80 pounds at a time from
Thailand, the finest weed you can find anywhere in the world.
In 1967, I came home and discovered that all my friends
smoked dope. That really blew me away. I got out of the
service and I went back to college, back to work in the
same place I was working before. Three months was all I
could handle. It was not the same. Things had changed.
A friend of mine said, "Let's go to San Francisco and buy
So I went to San Francisco and bought a brick. I started
dealing lids. It lasted for about eight months and I got
busted. I did a year in jail. I pulled about thirty days
hard time and the rest of it was all learning to adapt to
the environment and making the most out of it, developing
your own little scams. I wasn't out of jail more than two
weeks when I was in Mexicali copping bricks.
I brought my very first bricks across the border during
Operation Intercept. We stuffed them in the engine compartment
and some old Mexican man about fifty years old, with his
wife and his kids, drove them through Customs. We split
50-50. We did those trips until I made enough money to move
to San Francisco.
I got a straight job. I got tired of that and started dealing
dope, little things, penny ante. That went on for a couple
of months until I met my partner here and we had a good
rapport. We started dealing a few things; then all of a
sudden, we fell into this. We really fell into it; but I
can't talk about how.
2nd Smuggler: Well, I was a tool and dye maker and
I went into the Army. I got stationed in the Southwest.
I started smuggling there -- 600 pounds a month just to
the soldiers. When I got out, I moved to California. I built
a real good chemical market, and then we got together and
got this partnership started.
Were you manufacturing?
2nd Smuggler: We were discussing it seriously, but
they're just too heavy on chemical manufacturers. They put
a lot more money into the investigation.
1st Smuggler: Let's face it, man, acid is the basis
of the total revolution. It liberates you. They're afraid
of it and they'll put more energy into a chemical dealer.
They will do the same to a big hash dealer, but the reasons
are different. They like to bust hash people, because there
are tremendous amounts of money involved in hash operations.
They bust one, they cross out a large amount of dollars
out of the pool that's available to finance other trips.
Distributor: You want to hear a story of a bust?
2600 pounds of Jamaican weed was brought in and it was to
be transported across the country in a Winnebago camper.
Somehow the Winnebago didn't make it. They missed connections
where they were supposed to meet in this Southern town.
They rented a U-Haul truck and stuffed everything in the
U-Haul. They decided to stop at the restaurant parking lot
where they were supposed to meet the guy with the Winnebago
and hope that he came back. It was really late, two in the
morning. The restaurant was closed, but the owner lived
right behind it. He thought they were some kind of burglars
and called the police. The police stopped both the truck
and the car and asked to take a look. And they said no.
The cop says, "Why don't you just follow us down. It's going
to take us about 12 hours to get a warrant, but you can
sit and wait with us." And that was that.
Driving across the South was weird, really weird. People
see anything except maybe short hair or a crew cut, you
know, with loafers and they freak, like Easy Rider.
1st Smuggler: We don't have long hair. We can't
Distributor: When you're all done with what you're
doing, you can let it grow all the way down to your ass
Some of the narcs down in San Diego have hair all the way
down to their fucking yo-yos. They look like the biggest
freaks you ever saw. You can't tell down there.
1st Smuggler: For sure. A lot of them are heads.
A lot of them get busted, see, and they decide, "Well, I
don't want to do any time. I'll just turn my buddies in."
Distributor: They make 6-7-800 a month you know.
They don't have to do anything really. They go out and buy
a $300 car with dented fenders, and they get all their expenses
and shit paid for. They take some of the confiscated weed
and sell it. It's a joke.
1st Smuggler: It really is. A lot of the dope that's
confiscated is turned around and sold. How do you know who
Distributor: I know a guy who got busted scoring
a hundred kilos at the airport. Six ounces make it to the
preliminary hearings where they had to show the evidence.
The case was dismissed.
What are the economics of the business?
2nd Smuggler: In the interior it goes right now
for right around $30,000 a ton. You buy it in the interior
a ton at a time generally. I suppose there are a lot of
people that buy less than that but you usually get one ton,
two tons, three tons.
1st Smuggler: Sometimes the Mexican who is into
the trip will buy it from the farmer in the fields and he
may pay $10-15,000 for a ton. He will bring it to a certain
point farther up and he in turn will sell it for $30,000.
The man who buys it from him will bring it up to the border
area and then the price will double again. And when it comes
up here, in many cases it doubles. In many cases it does
not. But the money is in bringing it up from the interior
and across our region.
Some people say that Marin is the biggest single
distribution area on the West Coast?
1st Smuggler: It could be. I don't know, to be honest
with you. I know that there's a lot of it turned here but
we are not totally aware of what other people do here.
Do you have a guess as to about how many tons are
probably being brought out of Mexico per month?
1st Smuggler: No. I don't know.
2nd Smuggler: I'd say that during the last three
months (June, July and August) there's been very little.
I'd say we probably brought most of the total amount that's
And how much have you brought out?
Distributor: In the last two months, two tons. When
this is completed we will have grossed very near a half
a million dollars.
1st Smuggler: Hell, we already have.
How long did it take you to do that?
1st Smuggler: Two and a half months.
How come you don't quit right now?
2nd Smuggler: Because we spend a lot of money.
1st Smuggler: What we gross and what our net profit
is, is a totally different thing. Our profit is running
about 10 percent, maybe 20 percent after all expenses.
2nd Smuggler: And expenses are just amazingly high.
What kind of expenses?
2nd Smuggler: Well, just bail bonds, for one thing.
When your people get cracked you gotta cover up your tracks
and you also have to take care of your people.
1st Smuggler: And transportation, vehicles. You
have to put out a lot of money for vehicles to insure that
they are at all times running perfectly.
2nd Smuggler: I don't like them to have over 15-17,000
miles on them.
How many vehicles are on the trip?
2nd Smuggler: Four or five.
Have you ever lost any?
2nd Smuggler: No vehicles. We lost one trip, but
it was through the negligence of the people who were selling
What happens to them?
2nd Smuggler: We do our trip a lot different than
most people. Everybody that I've ever known that's lost
a large amount of weed that was fronted to them, the people
that fronted it came down on them pretty hard. They make
them sell all their cars and property and shit like that.
1st Smuggler: But, you know, to us, you lose it,
you lose it. It's part of the trip. You have to be willing
to accept that just like you have to be willing to accept
the fact that you can get busted. And we know that we're
only good for so long. That's it. Your odds are that if
you do it for more than a year on the scale that we're doing
it you're going to get busted. I know very few people who
have not been busted. A good friend of mine has made and
lost a million dollars cash. Made and lost it. And he's
getting ready to make his second.
You know all these books about goal-orientation? I feel
that it's like any other business. You just have to make
up your mind that you're going to do it and no matter what
happens you're going to follow through with this and be
Both of us have been through some tremendous mental pressures.
It's not an easy thing to do. It puts your head through
It's just incredible. But we work together and we're both
able to compensate for each other's deficiencies. So it
How do you feel about cocaine? Some people say that
dealing cocaine is bad karma.
1st Smuggler: Yeah, it probably is.
2nd Smuggler: Dealing cocaine is bad -- kind of
like dealing marijuana ten years ago was bad. You deal with
a different caliber of people today.
1st Smuggler: The guy that buys a lid of grass nowadays
to smoke or the guy that buys four pounds or whatever is
just as liable to buy cocaine because it's become an accepted,
social drug. Right now Marin County is flooded with it.
We have access to all the cocaine you'd ever want. We don't
really like to do it. Occasionally we will. But there's
a weird thing about it. You gotta be careful with it because
you get into dealing it heavy and it gets away with you
and it gets into your head. But we could deal and get all
the coke we want. In many ways it's easier. You've got a
package of weed that's this big that's worth a few hundred
bucks; and you got a package of cocaine one-third the size
that's worth $20,000 right? It's a matter of logistics.
2nd Smuggler: We could deal heroin if we wanted
to, but it is against our principles. A lot of people don't
understand that, especially officials, narcs, etc. We consider
ourselves to be honest businessmen doing an essential service.
Even though we're making a lot of money, we feel that the
sale of marijuana and drugs supports the underground economy.
And in this way we are doing our part in supporting many
people in the underground.
How do you feel about legalization?
1st Smuggler: I hope they wait six months.
Why have prices gone up so drastically this year? Weed
that was selling for $145 a pound in Marin in November 1970
is now upwards of $300 a pound.
1st Smuggler: There are two reasons that we know
of. The first is supply and demand. The Mexicans have become
aware of the size of the market and the value of their product,
so the prices have increased at the source, in the fields.
Secondly, although it is still relatively easy to bring
weed across the border, the American government has put
so much pressure on the Mexicans and provided them with
so much money that it is more difficult to move it through
the interior. It hasn't basically cut down the flow; it's
just increased the price. I personally believe that you
could still bring marijuana to San Francisco and sell it
for the same price that it was sold in 1966-67 and before
I get out of this business I'm going to prove it.
What's keeping you from doing it now?
2nd Smuggler: Investment money.
1st Smuggler: In other words, when I do it, I'm
going to make sure that I can afford to lose. I would like
to see pot that is being sold now for $200 a pound sold
for $75 and $80 a pound. It can be done. But why should
I do it now? If I sold it for $75 a pound, the person I
sold it to would turn around and sell it for $200 a pound.
The reason that we feel that we have to make as much as
we do is that we're the ones who have to go and get it.
We're the ones that take the risks.
2nd Smuggler: We could get a ton of weed from Jamaica,
better weed than most people here have ever seen, colitas,
tops, flowers, and if we broke out even after smuggling
expenses we'd probably sell it for $15 a pound.
1st Smuggler: Maybe not that low. Maybe $40 or $50
2nd Smuggler: Well, it wouldn't cost much to bring
it over except for the boat.
1st Smuggler: Yet that weed is going for $150 a
pound in quantity.
2nd Smuggler: That's to large buyers. It's $300
a pound for people buying it for personal stash.
1st Smuggler: This weed on the table is coming in
to this house for $125 a pound. The guy that's going to
buy a single brick or a single pound will end up paying
probably $160 for it. And I'll be honest with you: it's
not worth more than $125 a pound -- in relationship to the
past months, to the past years. It increasingly is getting
to cost more money. But the cost is not here, it's down
there, it's in Mexico.
Is there a lot of paranoia down there?
1st Smuggler: No. I won't tell you the name of the
town, but the man that we buy our merchandise from has the
police chief on his payroll. The Federales are a different
story. The Federales are not on anybody's payroll any more.
They used to be. But now the Federales are on the Nixon
payroll. In the local towns it's still the same as it was
five and ten years ago. They've never been able to break
that relationship. These people don't think this is wrong;
it's their way of life. It's that simple. There's absolutely
no paranoia whatever.
I was told that you stopped smoking grass.
1st Smuggler: This is my own little idiosyncrasy.
How did that happen?
1st Smuggler: I just got so hung up on the trip,
driving myself so hard trying to reach the point that I
have reached, that when I smoke it, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
I'm one of those people that get very heavy anxiety attacks.
I'll probably never smoke it again until I quit.
Is that because it makes you aware of what you're
1st Smuggler: Yeah.
What are you going to do after you quit?
1st Smuggler: I don't know; I'm still trying to
figure that one out. I really have not totally given it
a lot of thought. There are a lot of things I'd like to
do, travel, raise a family, own a legitimate business.
You said earlier that you got into the trip out of
boredom. Do you think you could get by without having the
hypo of that anxiety? That gives you a lot of energy, makes
everything more interesting.
1st Smuggler: Well, not only that but because I
saw it was a good business opportunity and I was willing
to take the risk, that's all. But, yeah, I dig it. I dig
the fact that we're beating the Man. That makes me happy,
you know what I mean? I make no bones about it.
2nd Smuggler: That's the question that always pops
up in my mind. I talk to my wife and she wants me to retire
and we set goals. Can we retire? It's not that we feel guilty
about what we're doing. In fact I'd feel guiltier about
sitting behind a desk in a loan office or selling cars.
1st Smuggler: But I'll tell you this: in order to
do this trip, you got to have an old lady that's behind
you 100 percent. Our old ladies have put up with a lot of
bullshit. We're away from them a lot and when we're home
all our energies are into this trip. The old lady has to
sit home. But they stuck by us.
2nd Smuggler: Also, they're under a lot of pressure
because of the pressure that we're under. Sometimes it's
not too pleasant.
1st Smuggler: My frustrations and my anxieties are
basically the same as any forty-year-old cat who has a 20
year mortgage on his house, working eight hours a day. It's
the same, it's the same. It's funny because one of the reasons
I got into this trip was that I didn't want to put up with
that bullshit. But yet I have come to the realization that
it's the same anyway. The responsibilities are just tremendous.
He and I handle tremendous sums of money. That's a heavy
trip. You sir down at a table and count out 60 and 70 thousand
dollars. It still blows me away. It's all cash.
Do you have any way of getting your money out of
1st Smuggler: Sure. We also have escape routes available,
and people who will support us under certain circumstances.
If it were necessary for us to disappear, we could do it.
Neither of us has a complete set of false identification
at this point, but we've already made arrangements for these
things to be taken care of. It's easy to do. I can get a
full set in New York for $500.
There are a lot of people who are in our position and,
then, all of a sudden, they get out of it and they go into
a completely legitimate business. That's what I'll end up
doing. I was raised in a rural area. I'd like to own a farm.
I like the privacy and relaxation. I'd love to be able to
raise marijuana legally. I think it'd be outta sight. In
Kentucky, or Tennessee, the Appalachians, the Blue Ridge
Mountains, the Smokies. Those old hill people have been
smoking dope for years, and they never thought anything
2nd Smuggler: I like the tropical areas. Florida
raises some fine grass in the Everglades.