An After-School Pot Bust

Helicopters buzzing about overhead, trips up Mt. Tam to water one’s private garden, backyards on The Mesa that were covered with camouflage, and citizens worried that newcomers were narks.

Ah, the good old days of Bolinas in the 1970’s, when entrepreneurs from our town and beyond tried in earnest to get a lump-sum out of the soil in the area, or sometimes just some extra money (and weed) to get through the winter.

There are plenty of folks that have much more hands-on experience in these areas than I given that my association with marijuana stopped in 1969, when I was 8-years old, after finding myself smoking the illicit weed with certain friends as well as selling “lids” of pot, little baggies that I think held about an ounce, on Wharf Road downtown. It’s true. Gino D’Accardo and I, solid friends throughout second and third grade, were the source for many of the townsfolk when in need of a joint. Happily, I never liked the coughing fit that the smoke would put me through, so I took up drop-line fishing at the dock, camping on the beach, and riding bikes around town with other friends instead.

But all of the police activity on the Bolinas Ridge this week does remind me of the time that I came home from a day at Tamalpais High School in 1976 and found our home on Evergreen Road being raided by officials from the Marin County Sheriff’s Department. As I got off the bus I saw two green and white sheriff units, a white unmarked car and a huge yellow county dump truck parked on the dirt road in front of our house.

I got off of the bus and started walking down Evergreen. As I got closer, I spotted the former Sheriff of Marin, G. Albert Howenstein, who I had interviewed several weeks earlier as part of a social studies project for a class at Tam. I saw my mother standing on the back part of the porch, smoking a cigarette and watching deputies haul tall stalks of marijuana out to the waiting dump truck.

Sheriff Howenstein looked over as I approached, recognized me, and reached out to shake my hand.

“What are you guys doing here?” I asked.

“We’re busting a bunch of hippies for growing pot,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

“I guess that I am one of the hippies,” I replied.

Actually, we weren’t really hippies – mom despised the term. We were poor though, and on welfare. The pot was only in the backyard because mom was letting a friend grow it there – who was going to give her a large sum (I think it was $10,000) after the weed was harvested and sold. A big fence had been built so it couldn’t be seen from the road, and mom planted sunflowers along the front of the house to keep suspicions at bay. Mom had planned on using some of the money on Christmas for my siblings and I, as well as groceries, food, paying off the charge account at the store, and getting caught up on the garbage bill.

Fortunately, the sheriff’s weren’t there to arrest anyone, my mother told me, puffing nervously on her cigarette. They just wanted to take the pot, which they had spotted from the air because no one had thought to use camouflage. She told me to go inside the house – and to close the front door quickly. “Don’t let any of the police inside the house,” she said.

I shut the door hard when I got inside the house and walked back toward my bedroom, which butted up to the backyard. It was a small house and I could hear activity coming from inside the bedroom. People were in the room – pulling marijuana in through the bedroom window – out into the hallway and lifting the stalks up into the attic.

At first I thought that it was the deputies, but as my eyes focused on the scene I saw that it was friends of my mother’s that had remained inside the house. As the deputies were taking the pot out of the backyard and into the dump truck, these people were working the other side of the crop – and harvesting as much as possible – right under the eyes and nose of the sheriff.

When it was all said and done, the fully-loaded dump truck left with a police escort that was en route to the county incinerator. A caravan of locals followed in cars, pulling over to pick up any falling branches.

Epilogue: The guy doing the growing made a cool $1 Million two years later growing pot in upstate New York. Mom got a smaller amount than anticipated – about $3,000, which gave us a nice holiday and caught us up on the garbage bill.

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