The Mezz

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"Poppa, you never smacked your cliops on anything sweeter in all your days of viping. It liad sucli a wonderful smell and the kick you got was really out of this wodd. Guys used to say it tasted like chocolate candy, a brand Hershey never even thouglit of. I laid it on the cats in the Barbeque, and pretty soon ail Hatlem was after me to light them up. I wasn't working then and I didn't have much money left to gaycat with, but I couldn't refuse to light my friends up. Before I knew it I had to write to our connection for a large supply, because everybody I knew wanted some. "Man, you can be rid in' on rubber in no time with that stuff, and it ain't against the law neither,', the cats told me. 'Just think how many cats you can make happy/, they kept saying. Before I knew it, I was standing on The Corner pushing guage. Only I did no pushing. I just stood under the Tree of Hope, my pokes full up, and the cats came and went, and so did all my golden-leaf.

Overnight I was the most popular man in Hanlem. New woixls came into being to meet the situation: the mezz and the mighty mezz, referring, I blush to say, to me and to the tea both* mezzfoll, to describe the kind of fat, well-packed and clean cigarette I used to roll (this word later got corrupted to meserolc and it's still used to mean a certain size and shape of reefer, which is different from the so-called panatella); the hard-cuttiD* mezz and the righteous bush. Some of those phrases reaUy found a permanent place in Hanlemese, and even crept out to color American slang in general.. I was knocked out the other day when I picked up a copy of Cab Calloway's Hipster's Dictionary and found mezz defined there as "anything supreme, genuine'; and in Dan Busle^'s Origi-nai Handbook of Havlem Jive the same word is defined as meaning 'tops, sincere'l"

Mezz Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe Realty Hie Blues> 1972

Just what is a handful of the leafy,, green vegetable matter known as EM I worth? Time, money,, knowledge? Why is an ounce of Thai weed worth an ounce of Swiss gold, an ounce of cocaine worth ten? Who sets the prices, and who lakes the money and runs? For a start

MARIJUANA The earliest smugglers brought pot to the Florida shores beginning in the eanly 1930s. Dixieland heads could score a sack of Colombian-bred reefer for a few dollars. Eventually the pot reached the streets in tobacco tins that sold for hall a dollar. As recently as the eanly Sixties, musicians and camp followers could cop a Prince Albert can of pot for five dollars from the blues wailers along the New Orleans-Chicago circuit..

The paucity of black and Mexican cultural history in the U.S. during the 1920s and '30s clouds the source of the first recreational puffing, but New

Orleans's music worfd of the period was indisputably intertwined with poL A cosmopolitan city with shipping lanes to the Caribbean-where pot was smoked recreationally, if not religiously-New Orleans was a hotbed of high and spiritual cultures, from Puritan-based fundamentalists and secret white Krews to African tribal societies.

It was daring the Fifties that the black market in pot developed. Kilos sold from $25 to S50 and were easy to transport up the California coastline into the cult, of expanded consciousness that developed in the last frontier. The pot was hard pressed, filled with sticks, seeds and, more often than not, Pepsi-Cola, to keep it moist, add weight and hold the bricks together. The bricks themselves weighed exactly a kilogram, with the wrapping paper adding an extra 30-odd grams. A popular trick in those days was for dealers to cut off a corner of the brick so the whole package, including the paper, weighed a kilo. From this practice originated the term rip-off, and many smokers can slilL recall, the tight, brown wrapped 'Texas bricks" with one corner sawed off.

Medium-grade Mexican was the pot of the Fifties and eanly Sixties, and though it was a stronger high than the commercial Mexican rushed to market today, moist eanly weed did not begin to compare to the potent South American strains* popularized in the Sixties. Top of the line in the late Fifties and eanly Sixties was Acapulco Gold and, occasionally Panamanian Red, the former selling for about $250 a pound and the latter for up to $400-astronomical prices compared to the $90 commercial Mexican. There was some hash from the Mideast that made inroads on the cannabis culture during the eanly Sixties, going for $50-$65 an ounce, a price that has remained almost constant for 15 years-superior marijuana strains preventing the Mideast hash sultans from cornering the market in resins, just as their licit business counterparts did with oil.

Basically it was Mexican along with the feeble wild marijuana that grew in most of the continental stales lhal turned on the millions of polheads who bobbed to the surface in ihe Sixties. Not until, the winter of 1969-70 did an alternative present itself: Jamaican ganja. First arriving in the duffel bags of vacationing college students, ihe market proved so strong for the exhilarating new weed that smugglers shifted their attention from Mexico to the Caribbean. Not only was the smoke more marketable, bul the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, progenitor of the OfO.ce of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) and the DEA, had initiated Nixon's 1970 ami dope campaign with Operation Intercept along the Mexican-U.S.

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