How The Long Strange Trip Began
I was born in the same state as Owsley Stanley, went to the same junior high and high school as Hunter S. Thompson, and I'm a Fugitive From Injustice. I first used cannabis with some neighborhood kids while listening to a new album called Surrealistic Pillow. I felt a calm, warming sense of peace and happiness wash over me. I remember all my friends had the same smile on their face I did. I felt so happy. This was the beginning of my association with cannabis.
As I got older, I would ride out towards Shelbyville and pick wild hemp my friend had found visiting his family's graveyard. Before World War II, that area was the number one hemp producing county in the number one hemp producing state in the U.S. I bought a book called A Child's Garden Of Grass and it gave me the idea to plant seeds. It also illustrated how to make a Tandyn Slave-Master, the first vaporizer. As you can see, it was easily constructed by any high school chemistry student. Separate the two Erlenmeyer flasks, insert a thistle tube and it converted into a water pipe.
In the mid 1960's my grandparents moved to a part of Miami Beach called Sunny Isles. In those days, South Beach was decrepit old Art Deco hotels inhabited by poor, elderly retirees. The middle part was what most people considered Miami Beach; world class, expensive resort hotels featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Jackie Gleason.
Sunny Isles was different. From Haulover Cut north to Golden Beach, it was like a middle class Las Vegas without legal gambling, right on the Atlantic Ocean. Affordable motels with names like The Castaways, The Thunderbird, The Beachcomber and The Marco Polo attracted tourists from the east coast, especially NY. It was known as Motel Row.
Visiting teenagers were attracted to a local club on the beach called Thee Image. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, etc. played there. A couple of miles north in Golden Beach is 461 Ocean Blvd. About 10 minutes away from Sunny Isles was a recording studio called Criteria Studios, where groups like The Allman Brothers, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac recorded their award winning albums.
It was quite a large market for cannabis.
Many of the motels were controlled or strongly influenced by organized crime and that’s a fact. All of these motels employed bellhops, bartenders, and pool boys to keep the tourists happy. Many supplemented their income by providing tourists with a type of cannabis that was not available Up North.
It was a variety from Jamaica that smelled very different from what they were used to. It was expensive, didn't have seeds, and you didn’t get much but it was really, really good. The tourists didn’t mind paying for it, after all, they were on vacation. It came from Jamaica into Haulover Cut on small sail and power boats, passed by Beer Can Island on the way to Maule Lake Marina to be offloaded. I was a pool boy, so I knew many of those involved who were bringing it in.
If you can't do the time, don't commit the crime.
I was raised by a man who was a sergeant in World War II and was held P.O.W. in Germany. I had 3 older brothers, so I spent my whole childhood being told what to do. Because of this, there was nothing I valued more than my freedom and independence. Not cannabis and certainly not money.
I wouldn't sell cannabis because I wasn’t going to prison.
Because of my association and friendship with those who did import, I had access to some of the best quality, non-compressed, rapidly transported cannabis available in Miami during the late 60’s and 70’s. I introduced a couple of Italians and a Jewish guy to some surfers, who knew the Cubans, who brought it in for the Coptics and a very friendly relationship developed. They kept Bayside and Howard Beach supplied for quite a while and appreciated the intros, so anytime I needed to score, it was quite easy.
Visited Sebastian Inlet with them one time when they were just surfing and met some very interesting people. One guy said he moved a lot of the Coptic’s stuff up in Gainesville, called it Gainesville Green. Said he used to run PBR's in The Delta, I thought he was talking about Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I had no idea what that meant until I saw Apocalypse Now many years later. I remember him taking a big hit off a joint, exhaling and saying, “Thai sticks ain’t got shit on this”.
I believed him.