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started the Cali Cartel

started the Cali Cartel out of Cali, Colombia.” Tim goes onto say that most people who think they know the smuggling history of the States do not even know Griselda Blanco, “The Godmother of Cocaine.” She and her husband brought Pablo out of the street gangs in Medellin when he was running around selling pot as a kid and taught him how to gather the coca paste and turn it into cocaine hydrochloride. So Pablo was being taught, trained, and groomed to be their conduit of cocaine into the United States. Long stories short, Griselda kills her first two husband and becomes “The Black Widow.” After being indicted in New York, disappears, then shows up in Miami in the late ’70s, early ’80s, a time and place Timmy calls “the most deadliest place to be during any other war or conflict of this Earth. Miami was the most dangerous place to be—and it became that way because of her. Tim’s Tim’s two contacts in Miami were soldiers of Griselda’s. He explains, “She was a ruthless, killing, vindictive bitch. If you owed her money but you paid her, she’d kill you. If you owed her money and didn’t pay her, she’d kill you. If she didn’t like you, for whatever reason—you might have said something wrong to her son or someone she knew, she’d kill you. Just like that. Not even think about it. This is the woman who taught Pablo to be as crazy as he was. To be the ruthless and infamous killer that he was. He learned it from her.” Timmy says nothing his crew ever did was violent— they were kids, they were working with their family. If you messed up on the crew, the punishment was “Hey asshole, you’re not working the next three jobs.” So there would go an easy $75,000. Instead of getting beat, they’d lose work. And everybody was working. At $10 a pound of Colombian red, wouldn’t you? Tim would take these cocaine-runners’ money and flip $300k for 30,000 pounds. Violence did not occur on his rung of the ladder—do you think someone is going to shoot at someone delivering 9 million worth of grass? If you smoked pot in the ’70s and ’80s, these guys probably had their hands on it. So it seems safe to say, the biggest victim of violence in Tim’s run-ins were the cows. Tim would take that money from Miami to drop it in the Cayman Islands for “The Boss,” as Tim would call his connection in Colombia, either in his account or flying it to him personally. Tim would literally walk through to the jungle with him and his crew, stabbing Featured Article bale at brandom with a six foot long bamboo pole with a piece pipecut on an angle in order to extract and sample their contents. “How many of those you got? Kick those down,” he’d say, 200 or 300. A typical 20 ton load consisted of between 800 and 1000 bales and he needed to spray his personal mark on each of them. So when Tim rolls up after a week on a boat, those bales better have his fucking mark on them. That’s how they would identify them. This system, as Tim tells it, was adopted out of sheer necessity. By that I mean, at times there were so many vessels waiting to be unloaded, it was common for them to unload the wrong boat. When you’ve got literal mountainsides getting harvested to come into the states, so much shit coming in, they unloaded the wrong boat one night and the other crew unloaded theirs—ultimately, they just swapped pay and started marking their own bales. So as someone who earned a bench warrant in Florida for holding less than a gram of weed, I had to ask the Saltwater Cowboy how he lives to tell his legend after carrying out the marijuana empire on such a large scale in one of America’s most conservative states. “During the Reagan administration,” I said, “incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses spiked from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 in the ’90s; that’s like 800%. So how did you avoid a long-term sentence?” In essence, Tim explains the laws did not have the desired effect for the drug trade in Southern Florida and the federal laws regarding sentencing guidelines were changed to mandatory minimums across the board on September 1st 1987. They were unaware and kept operating under the assumption that if they were caught, they’d face a slap on the wrist and be back in a couple of months. Tim earned 4 indictments with 4 counts on each one— and each one came with mandatory sentences of 10 years to life, as well as million dollar fines. Anyone who was hauling a bale of weed faced this new reality—for Tim, a mandatory 160 years to life and sixteen million dollars in fines. “Never in their wildest imagination did they think they would be putting a bunch of kids in prison for the rest of their lives. They had no idea it was kids. They had no idea the sheer amount we were J28

moving. Those two facts coupled together made it difficult for them to come to terms with the mandatory minimums. That being said, since they were established, there’s nothing they can do about it.” “The only thing to be done was to allow the people of my crew an opportunity to save their asses. By cooperating. If you cooperate with the United States government under these mandatory minimums, there’s a section under the USC codes, the United States Annotated Codes, Title 18, that says if you give substantial cooperation to the US government, you can be released from mandatory minimums and be sentenced accordingly. Which means they can now have discretion—they can send you home if they wanted. But you have to give what they consider to be substantial cooperation. That being said, there being so many of us, nearly three hundred of us ultimately after several years of investigating and dispatching arrests, they did not want to put all these kids—I mean literally, we were the third generation of this—in prison for life. So they said look, what we need you to do is cooperate. Give us the names, tell us how it’s done, and we will give you immunity from prosecution for everything you’ve ever done. Except for ONE COUNT, we will hold in reserves, we can give you a slap on the wrist, give you some time and call it quits.” Marijuana Empire , available on Amazon.You want to be a kingpin of cannabis, you listen to those who have already overcome the system. Sure it’s always changing and we’re always adapting, and here’s one of your frontier-breaking founding fathers, explaining how drug trade began like an old fishing story. These are some of the last genuine pirates. And since this is an industry in which we all do better when we know our damn roots, there’s no juicier or more explicit inside story than the cowboy telling of it himself. In essence, as Florida’s pot pirates gained immunities, they’d say, “Just give them my name/our names,” because they were already cleared. I can’t give you all the details of how Tim shortened his sentence to four years, because you’ve got to fill in the gaps and read his damn book. He writes as if you’re sitting on a beach passing a joint and clinking Coronas, like he’s telling the story to a friend. And I must say, after talking to this character for 2 hours, I could easily listen to another 2 more—he’s like the living Google of that era. All through the 80’s Tim ran these southern waters of south Florida and the Caribbean with a band of modern day outlaws known by locals as Saltwater Cowboys. Tim, the original Saltwater Cowboy of the Southern Florida drug trade, is richly sharing what the marijuana culture looked like before it went indoors and technical medical—when it was a work-trade, an international smuggle game, and a hell of a historic hustle. If marijuana is your trade, check out Tim McBride’s Saltwater Cowboy: The Rise and Fall of a Tim aka The Salt Water Cowboy J29

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