Posted on April 1st, 2011 in 1970s,Crime by Terry Hamburg

The baby boomer crime scene: nearby scenic Mazatlan, Mexico.

The crew arrived at a ramshackle, abandoned ranch somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Che, our contact, pulled a out gun and fired a few rounds in the air.

What the hell are you doing?” I screamed. “You’re telling everyone where we are.”

“Everyone knows where we are. I’m telling them to stay away.”

“What about the federales?”

“Who do you think everyone is?”

Two hundred pounds of marijuana had been dumped on the floor.  We had to do our own packing. I complained.

Che had zero sympathy. “This ain’t no Kroger’s, dude.”

He used a standard method. Wrap tight in 20 pound plastic “bricks.” Sprinkle liberally with baking soda. Wrap the load in two plastic bags, tie down. Stash the bags in the car trunk along with boxes of baking soda.

I drove the clean lead car (#1) 800 miles north from Mazatlan as the spotter for car #2. We encountered only one heart-stopping moment: a federales roadblock I communicated by walkie-talkie to car #2, which pulled over. An hour later the roadblock ended and the caravan proceeded. Damn, we were smart.

As per plan, the contraband in #2 was tossed over a border fence along a highway in the dead of night with Donny, who took it to a nearby rendezvous road. #1 had cruised across the border an hour earlier and returned to Tucson. One crew member had to be separated in case of a bust. #2 waited a while with the truck open and exposed to the cool desert breezes before entering the States. No worry, we thought. Che assured us all would be fine. He did it a hundred times before. Just don’t act nervous. We all took Valium.

Actually, Che hadn’t done a run in years. He was in jail. In the meantime, the border cops had acquired new canine friends with an improved sense of smell. But the authorities had only a signal, a ghost of crime, hardly enough for an arrest. They did, however, tail our car and busted the rendezvous. Game over. At least it happened on the gringo side.

We had been advised to drive straight back to Tucson and retrieve the weed the next day. The Border Patrol typically follows a suspect target for 20 miles or so, past the typical rendezvous side roads, and then gives up. We were anxious to rock n’ roll and rejected such precautions.

Arriving in Tucson blissfully unaware of reality, I greeted our baby boomer partner in crime from the Midwest. The cash was bursting out of his pockets. We gloated over the victory and plotted our next venture.

“They should be here by now,” I said after a few hours.

The phone rang. The conversation was brief.

“We’ve been popped.”

“Where are you?”

“Pima County Jail.”

“What do you need for bail?”

“A thousand each.”

“I’ll try.”

The contact and I didn’t need to exchange words. He bolted.

I removed all incriminating evidence from the house and bolted to my girlfriend’s apartment.

We invested our bankroll in the deal. I visited local drug dealers to raise the bail. Unfortunately, we were too hot to deal with. After three days of frustration, I called a co-conspirator’s father, a big-shot at ITT. Not only did I have to explain the situation, I was forced to admit that the $6000 we borrowed from him wasn’t spent on electronic equipment for our fledgling comedy group. We would have used the proceeds on equipment, I pointed out, but we wanted a little cushion.

All were released on bail.

Peter’s attorney brother was immediately dispatched to Tucson. Peter was charged with possession to sell. Probation.

Linda, the ringleader and oldest gang member, was released without charges. A cop told her that everyone assumed a woman came along just for the ride, a gang moll.

That left Donny, a Tucson local, poor, without connections, charged with possession to sell.  He figured someone would do time for the crime and he would be it. He split into the desert. Linda went with him, incurring an “aiding a fugitive” charge.

The author got out of Tucson pronto and never returned.


In 1971, Ann Arbor political activist and rock n’ roll manager John Sinclair was sentenced to 10 years for giving (free) two joints to an undercover agent. Famous rockers organized a free Free John! concert in Ann Arbor that drew national attention. The leaders?

John and Yoko, who else?

Match Game: Connect the baby boomer celebrity with the drug crime:

(Note: my apologies to John Denver. It was Bob Denver who received marijuana through the mail. Must have been thinking Rocky Mountain High.)

Paul McCartney→ marijuana smuggling
Ryan O’Neil→ methamphetamine possession
Mackenzie Phillips→ Cocaine possession


Marijuana arrests in the U.S.

1965: 18, 815

1966: 31,119

1967: 61, 843

1968: 95, 870

1969: 118,903

1970: 188, 682

1971: 225,828

1972: 292, 179 (54.4 % of the total drug arrests that year)

Number of marijuana arrests in California in 1975: 88,000

Number of marijuana arrests in California in 1976: 10,000

In 1976 a California state law decriminalizing marijuana possession of less than one ounce went into effect.

Share...Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponTweet about this on Twitter

Post a comment