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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Biggest Marijuana SMUGGLER

Tony Dokoupil reports:

America’s Biggest Marijuana Ring: Black Tuna Tells All - The Daily Beast
Robert Platshorn got 64 years as America’s biggest weed smuggler. Now he says the case was mostly hype—and, in exclusive interviews, the government agrees.

Platshorn bribed his way out of Colombia, he says, but in May 1979, he was indicted as the mastermind of the biggest marijuana ring ever uncovered, a paramilitary squad responsible for the DC-3 job and much more—a million pounds of Santa Marta Gold between 1976 and 1977. The 105-page indictment had “more intrigue than ten James Bond novels,” as the Chicago Tribune put it: 13 codefendants, $300 million in earnings, a dozen yachts, a fleet of aircraft from a Cessna to a Lear jet, all of it coordinated from the penthouse of Miami Beach’s largest hotel, the Fountainbleau.

Platshorn was the first marijuana dealer to be prosecuted under the so-called Kingpin Statute, a 1970 law that targets elaborate large-scale drug syndicates. He was sentenced to 64 years in prison, making him “America’s longest serving marijuana prisoner,” according to High Times. This is a man “with no social conscience,” the head of Miami’s FBI office told a reporter at the time. 

Platshorn is still in the marijuana game, using his infamy for a kind of sweet revenge: legal weed.

Since last fall, Platshorn, who is Jewish, has been on a “Silver Tour” of Florida synagogues and retirement homes, including his own Golden Lakes Village, stumping for medical marijuana as a first step toward outright legalization.

As Platshorn sees it, weed is an effective medicine for much of what ails the elderly population, which is also the largest demographic stumbling block to wider marijuana reform. Win them over and legalization may follow.

“Old people vote,” he says of his target audience, “and no one was out there educating them about marijuana.”

Platshorn’s arguments for legalization are not new, but he is an exceptional advocate. The son of a Philadelphia shoe salesman, he went right to work, spending 15 years hawking Remington automatic knives and Vita-Mix blenders on the Atlantic City boardwalk and on fairgrounds nationwide.

Today,  Platshorn's sentence might seem harsh. “These guys didn’t ruin the number of lives that [heroin and cocaine traffickers] Frank Matthews and Nicky Barnes did, and they were not shooting all around.”

For the first time in Florida, there are medical-marijuana resolutions in both the Senate and the House, and at least one poll shows majority public support—thanks in no small part to Platshorn.
“We have a lot of seniors in our community and people with terminal illnesses that truly believe they derive relief from medical marijuana,” state representative Jeff Clemens told the Sun-Sentinel recently. Last January, after Platshorn pitched him on the idea, Clemens introduced a medical marijuana bill in the House. This year Clemens has joined Platshorn on the Silver Tour.

With Republican majorities in elected office, it’s still a long shot for marijuana legalization, medical or otherwise. But Platshorn is optimistic. Ever the salesman, he raises extra capital by selling Black Tuna Gang medallions on his website. The gold ones have sold out. Act now, however, and the silver could still be yours. “Everybody who said Florida is impossible,” says Platshorn, “doesn’t know what a pitchman can do.”