In this story you'll learn who and how this 12 ton load of Panama Red was smuggled into California.
Have you ever heard the legend of Panama Red? I mean you have heard of Panama Red haven't you? Well here's the true story about a load that came into California, in 1969.
I drove up Highway 1, to Maple Street, in Tam Valley, and turned left. If you know where this is, it's near Mill Valley. I went to my connection's house to see what exotic weed had come in. He had Yucatan Green, which was fully filled into white plastic bags. It had a fruity aroma, and you could uncoil the kiwi colored green leaves back into their natural finger and hand shapes. I'd never seen weed cured this well. It was somehow cured like pliable tobacco leaves. The price was $150. a pound which was a lot back in those days. Next a brown grocery sack came out of the closet, which I noticed was full of both white plastic bags and the brown grocery bags. From my quick glance I estimated about 10 bags of weed in all.
As the top of the brown bag was unfolded I immediately smelled the strong aroma of fresh tilled earth, perhaps the smell when you turn over a mulching log, combined with red clay. Then I distinguished another smell. The smell of fresh earth was mixed with a strong hashish smell. A handful of the well dried small buds was pulled out and laid on the stainless steel plate of the triple-beam. I was in wonder as I had never seen any weed that wasn't green or gold. To my amazement these small buds were a bright rusty color. Not brown like the Colombian Gold I scored a few years later, but you know, a rusty red color. I asked: Where's this weed from?
My connection told me the story.
This is Panama Red. This stuff grows in the mountains north of the Panama Canal. The soil is red to black, with rain all the time. It's impossible to get this weed, but I have access to about a ton of it.
How much is it for a pound, I asked him.
It's $220. a pound. My wad of cash choked in my pocket, as I had thought that the Yucatan green was expensive. He could read me. He pulled out a paper from his Zig-Zag pack, and rolled a pinhead joint. Then he lit it up, making a yellow flame as the empty paper end burned into the weed. He took the first puff, which sent off, two thin intertwined lines of blue gray hashish like smoke, heading towards the ceiling.
He was already well stoned from encounters with his earlier customers, and when I first walked into his home I had noticed how his eyes were glazed over. He looked like the poster of a wizard, with his long hair, beard, and crystal ball eyes. If this were possible, he looked even more euphoric from the one hit; and his eyes rolled back, and closed, as he slowly stabbed the smoking pinner across the table in my direction. As I reached out for it, he said in a choked breath while exhaling smoke: You'll probably never get weed this good again.
I knew his word was always true. My connection and his group had smuggled hashish from Afghanistan, India, and Morocco. He'd been busted for importing hash in the bottom of a crate of snakes. He always had exotic weed and hash. He wouldn't mess around with the weed I could get from the pilots in my part of the state. The only stuff I could get in my area was Mexican weed which ran about $80. to $120. a brick. We called this weed, reg, for regular. The reg kilos or bricks came wrapped in red, green or blue construction paper and was taped off with masking tape. This was the regular bottom line, non-exotic, weed that was somewhat harsh to the throat, but got you stoned. We resold for $10. a lid, or if you weren't around back then, a lid is an ounce.
The hashish smell of the pinner was overcoming my thoughts, as I took a hit of pure heaven. The smoke was so smooth, with a taste just like it's unburnt smell of fresh clean earth and hashish. I thought it tasted like Lebanese Red hash, mixed with fresh earth, as I barely watched the smoke vining it's way upwards. It was hash without the bite. Then the stone came on as I took my second hit. My senses suddenly kicked into hyper space as I became acutely aware of everything. My hearing, my thinking, my senses were all rocketed into Stonesville, which is a different place for every one of us. Within a minute I realized I was really stoned. I laughed. Shortly after three hits, I started seeing trails, colors, and realized this weed was a psychedelic high too. Lots of colors, and laughs, in a mellow floating state. A weed to bring out your innermost thoughts, to philosophize, about the finer points of life and existence, with those of like mind.
In 1969, I bought five pounds of Panama Red, which is the most stony weed I have ever smoked, even to this day. When I got back home where the local Hippies were used to the $10. price of an oz., of reg, I knew I couldn't sell this rusty red weed. First, since it wasn't green, they wouldn't believe it was weed. Second, the price would be about four times what they were used to paying for an oz. of reg weed. I kept telling myself nobody was ready for this rusty weed which would send anybody, especially these locals to heaven. I knew that if I rolled pinners, it would take me years to smoke all of this exotic weed. I figured at least 80 joints to an oz., and I had 80 ozs., and let's see, that's 6400 joints. I couldn't take time to do one a day, so I figured maybe 150 a year, and um, it would take me over forty-two years to smoke all of this weed. It would lose it's potency after a year or two. Then the lightbulb came on. I'd roll up about 10 pinners and just give them away. I understood that even my friends could figure out that this was the best weed in the world. After they had smoked this fantastic weed, they would realize how stoned they were, and with the weed rolled up they wouldn't know it wasn't green! Great idea! I reached into my pocket again as I arrived at the toll booth on the Golden Gate Bridge entering San Francisco, stoned out of my mind.
I want you to know something, when I got home that's exactly what I did. I passed out the pinners and asked my friends to just try it and give me their opinions. They questioned me about the small sized joints, and I said what are you complaining about, it's free. Then the phone started ringing with questions like: What was that? Is that laced with acid? That can't be ordinary weed. Do you have any more? Then I got to tell the story of Panama Red to them, which if you ever smoked the real thing, I need not say more.
MEETING THE SMUGGLER
On another score trip north, about a month later, I discovered that my connection had moved to Stinson Beach. You might know where he moved if you ever went there. It was the third house back from the beach, it was on the left, the one with the purple door. When the purple door opened I gasped as I thought I saw my dad sitting down counting cash on a coffee table. I realized that it really wasn't my Dad, but the guy was a dead ringer for my dad. He had a receding conservative haircut, with brown hair, and graying sideburns. Same facial features. My connection introduced him, and for his protection, I'll just call him Roy. Roy was counting out $40,000. cash, another installment for the fronting of his illegal, precious cargo of Panama Red to my connection. This was a lot of money for a weed deal back in 1969, and probably one of a hundred bags of money picked up by Roy. You figure it out. If he sold his Panama Red for only $120. a pound, times 24,000 pounds he grossed about $2.9 million from his load. Thirty years ago this money had the purchasing power of about 4 times more than what it would buy today. However, I have no idea what Panama Red would cost today as I have never found it again. I've had Colombian Gold, but it's more of a brown tobacco color. Red is a very earthy, rusty color and I haven't even seen any counterfeit stuff offered. I haven't even seen the seeds offered. The $40,000. Roy was counting out was only a payment for about 300 pounds. Payment for a ton would be $240,000. Don't forget he had the money from selling the fish too.