Tales from the nice mar­i­juana smug­gler

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

Can a nice white boy from Har­bour Is­land (a tiny Eden-like is­land off Eleuthera in the Ba­hamas), a kid who doesn’t drink or smoke or do ganja, be­come a top-tier kick­boxer, make mil­lions as a mar­i­juana smug­gler, go to Prince Charles’ wed­ding to Diana Spencer, live the good life, get busted and come out the other end a nice white boy who still lives on Har­bour Is­land?

That’s the premise of award­win­ning Wash­ing­ton Times colum­nist John McCaslin’s “Weed Man,” the in­cred­i­ble story of a Conchy Joe (that’s how white Ba­hami­ans are known) named Jimmy Moree, aka Jimmy Di­vine.

The ma­jor­ity of the story takes place in the 1970s. Barely out of his teens, newly mar­ried and run­ning a dive shop on Trea­sure Cay in the north­ern Ba­hamas, Jimmy was jog­ging on the beach, “rounded a point and had fun try­ing to jump over a large bale of what ap­peared to be hay. ‘I ran a bit far­ther along the beach and there was an­other bale, wrapped in burlap like the other one, with three stripes on it,’ Jimmy re­calls. ‘And that’s when I said to my­self, What’s hay do­ing in the Ba­hamas? So I stopped jog­ging and no­ticed that other bales were float­ing in with the surf. And then it hit me: This isn’t hay. This is weed.’ ”

Forty bales of Colom­bian weed, to be ex­act. Forty bales of high-oc­tane Colom­bian rocket fuel weed, to be more ex­act. Jimmy im­me­di­ately re­ported what he’d found to his friend Sarge, a Royal Ba­hamas Po­lice of­fi­cer whose im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion (and re­ported straight-faced by Mr. McCaslin) was: “Do you know any­body who might want to buy it?”

It turns out that Jimmy did: a 270-pound Conchy Joe known as the Chief. The Chief, a na­tive Ba­hamian, had made his name in Lon­don as the ex­ec­u­tive chef at the five-star Dorch­ester Ho­tel, then moved to Paris where he cooked at the Ge­orge V Ho­tel. But the Chief missed his Ba­hamian roots. “He packed up his kitchen knives and mix­ing spoons,” Mr. McCaslin writes, “and, upon arriving in Nas­sau, launched a ca­ter­ing busi­ness that would in time pro­vide its cus­tomers with more than food and bev­er­age.”

The Chief sold Jimmy’s 40 bales (that Sarge had con­ve­niently stored in the lo­cal po­lice sta­tion for safe­keep­ing). And prov­ing that a po­lice­man’s lot is not al­ways an un­happy one, Sarge and Jimmy’s share of the sale came to $380,000 — al­most 200 grand apiece.

Need­less to say, Jimmy found that smug­gling weed through the Ba­hamas into the United States was a lot more prof­itable than run­ning a dive shop. And so he and the Chief went into busi­ness. By Christ­mas of 1974, Jimmy and his crew were han­dling freighter loads that in one in­stance to­taled 100,000 pounds — that’s 50 TONS of mar­i­juana at one time.

“Like some­body in the crew said one time,” Mr. McCaslin quotes Jimmy, “we were mak­ing more money than the Bea­tles.”

Un­like many in the drug trade, Jimmy never used any of the sub­stances he smug­gled. In fact, he was — and re­mains, Mr. McCaslin writes — a tee­to­taler. And to Jimmy, what he did may have been il­le­gal, but it wasn’t wrong. All he did was to sat­isfy Amer­ica’s in­sa­tiable de­mand for mar­i­juana (ac­cord­ing to Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion es­ti­mates, Amer­i­cans were tok­ing up­ward of 35,000 pounds of mar­i­juana a day in the early 1970s), and use some of his il­le­gal gains to make the lives of his friends and rel­a­tives more comfortable.

“ ‘ And that’s what it was all about, mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives,’ Jimmy says. ‘We weren’t hurt­ing any­body; we weren’t killing any­body. Yes, we were break­ing the law, but we weren’t bad peo­ple. We were just weed peo­ple.’ ”

In one of the few dis­ap­point­ments of the book, Mr. McCaslin nei­ther fol­lows up on this moral/eth­i­cal point with Jimmy, nor takes is­sue with Jimmy’s naive and self-serv­ing ra­tio­nal­iza­tion. Be­cause the fact of the mat­ter is that there is no such thing as vic­tim­less crime. Jimmy’s ef­for ts ul­ti­mately helped fund and de­velop the Colom­bian drug car­tels as well as ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the FARC (Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia).

The trade­craft Jimmy used to smug­gle weed was the tem­plate that was em­ployed in the 1980s for the hem­or­rhage of Colom­bian co­caine that, to this day, con­tin­ues to come north. If Jimmy and Chief were mak­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars, then the Amer­i­can Mafiosi in­volved in the drug trade and the Colom­bian car­tels were mak­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions. In­deed, the drug en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties have in the past seized sea-go­ing con­tain­ers crammed full of U.S. cur­rency. That money buys power and in­flu­ence.

Still, Jimmy’s story is fas­ci­nat­ing. And it even has a happy end­ing. The Chief, ad­dicted to co­caine, meets a bad end. Jimmy is ar­rested. He serves time in a fed­eral prison, then re­turns to Har­bour Is­land. To­day, ac­cord­ing to Mr. McCaslin, Jimmy does car­pen­try and lives with his sec­ond wife, Han­nah, in a beach­front house, con­tent to tell sto­ries about his ad­ven­tures.

John Weis­man’s lat­est nov­els, “SOAR,” “Jack in the Box” and “Di­rect Action” are all avail­able as Avon pa­per­backs. He can be reached at ares­d­dog@gmail.com.

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