The Black Market Economics

"There are two kinds of dealers: those who need a foiklift. and those who don't/.'

A drug (leister

Utile did I realize the complexity of the dope world's financial structure until 1 watched a man try to explain it to 13 people who had never bought a lid in their lives. Twelve of them were jurors, the other a judge, and the expert a defense witness for two men on trial for possession of marijuana. Their attorney had asked him to testify as to th e w oj thlessness o f W i sco nsi i i-g row7 n pot.. I wits there reporting for the paper I worked on.

The two men were charged with possession with intent to sell, & felony good for 15 years in the big house. Cops had rousted them on a traffic violation and found enough loose weed to warrant a search. Twelve hundred pounds of freshly cut cannabis was found hanging from the raftets in a barn behind their house. That was a colossal bust in 1971, and the local district attorney hoped to make political mileage. The great national pot debate was on in earnest, and no prosecutor worth his shingle could miss a chance to put away a couple of big-time dealers, There was no question the pot had been found in their possession and that the search was legal. The best the pair could hope for was a reduction of the charges from the felonious "intent to sell" rap to a simple misdemeanor charge of possession. Their only hope for that was to convince the jury that (he hamload of pot was not for sale.

Introduced by the defense as an authority on both drugs and street culture, the pot expert was to explain to the jury that Wisconsin pot was totally worthless as a high, no one would buy it, and that therefore the defendants could not possibly have possessed their barnload of illegal vegetables with a n y i n te n t of sell in g it« Special ts reason nig, granted, transparent to the most obtuse of jurists, but true nonetheless. Also, hope springs eternal when you're staring at 15 years.

The judge listened to the testimony with curiosity, , then asked some questions. Why was Wisconsin pot so inferior? Because, he explained, during Would War II Wisconsin had been one of nine states that grew hemp used in rope production. A tough, lowering, ubiquitous plant that rivaled 20-foot pine trees for sunlight, when smoked it emitted a thick,, oily, rope-smelling fog that caused migraine. It did not get a person high, even smoking dozens of joints. The judge was not satisfied. Was Wisconsin really incapable of growing quality smoking pot? That!s so, said the pot pro• Wisconsin vmv as inhospitable to smokable pot as the craggy cliffs of Acapulco or Santa Marta would be to the clumsy cows that roamed the Dairy State pasturelands, No one, he insisted, would buy Wisconsin weed.

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"Federal agents used income tax violations to nail Prohibition hoods such as A1 Capone, who withstood all other attempts to tear down his blood-soaked empire. And that's what's in store for cocaine dealers and others narcs call "purveyors of the white death.".

Since 1971, the Internal Revenue Service has been checking the income tax returns of known narcotics violators. The Drug Enforcement Administration got the tax snoopers off to a good start by giving them a list of 1,200 names."."

Marc Olden Cocuine. 1973

The judge pondered this, then asked why anyone would bother to cut 1,200 pounds of worthless weed and hang it in their barn to dry. Probably,, the witness surmised, the defendants hoped to make paraphernalia, items from the plants-walking sticks from the stalks, plasticdencased leaves, photo postcards. The prosecutor, in hopes of gaining an admission the weed had some sort of market value, asked what the whole crop of this worthless weed would be wordt and he answered that he would not trade his 50-dollar witness fee for the whole bamload.

The defense called the next witness, a convicted pot dealer; and he too testified that Wisconsin weed was unsalable. The prosecutors fougjit this line of defense tooth and nail, arguing that "'intent to sell" merely means that more than two ounces had been found in the person's possession, thereby signaling an intent to sell; no actual intent needed to be proven; hence, the market worth of the pot was a moot issue. The defense attorney fougjit just as ferociously, . contending that where there was no intent to sell,, then there was no intent to sell-, and to be convicted a felon over this "moot issue" was a miscarriage of justice, a violation of the spirit, of the law> if not the letter. Soon the jury was confused over the "'intent to sell" issue. The prosecutor, in choosing to disregard rather than rebut the question of potency and salability\ , had appeared to confirm the defense claims that the weed was worthless, and his quibbling over the technical differences between intent to sell" and actual sales sowed further confusion. It only takes one unconvinced juror to cost a prosecutor a case, and there were several.. Soon the DA. called for a recess and negotiated a misdemeanor possession charge in the hall with the defense rather than risk losing the whole case. The DA. was not happy..As the two defendants left the courtroom, he shouted after them, "You're lucky that marijuana was no . good, or you'd both be doing 15 years.f"


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