By Lucy Steigerwald
Robert Platshorn is against the war on drugs; so much so that he spent 5k on two pro-pot billboards. The 69-year-old director of Florida National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) did so as part of "The Silver Tour," which is a campaign to convince senior citizens in South Florida that medical marijuana is a good thing.
Platshorn is a rare senior citizen indeed. Seniors (Florida has lots of 'em!) are credited as the reason for the failure of California's Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative. And in in general, older populations do frown on legalization. Gallup in 2011 charted 39 percent of folks 65 and older as in support of legalization of marijuana; compare that to the 62 percent support from those aged 18-29. The thing about Platshorn, though, is that he spent much of his time in those younger, more pro-pot demographics in prison. In 2008, Platshorn finished out a 30-year term for marijuana smuggling as part of the "Black Tuna Gang."
As part of the Silver Tour, Platshorn put up two billboards in support of medical marijuana, one of which is to the right. They will run for a month.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Down the road apiece, just after a billboard advertising a service for clogged drains, stands the second big sign. "Reschedule Medical Marijuana" it reads. Below it is a quote from former administrative Judge Francis L. Young's ruling about pot in a 1988 case: "One of the Safest Therapeutically Active Substances Known to Man."
The billboards urge viewers — some 54,500 cars pass that section of Sample Road daily, according to the state Department of Transportation — to learn more at The Silver Tour, the billboards' sponsor.
Platshorn surely is not the most sympathetic face of the pro-legalization movement, at least not to those on the fence about the issue, but it's cool that he's now taking the slow and sneaky path to convince those most skeptical.
Here's a sampling of a Miami Herald article written on the occasion of the former drug-smuggler's release from jail. The implication seems to be that weed trafficking was a gentleman's game in the 1970s. He was, after all, non-violent:
This was just business, and good business wasn't violent, not in the mid-Seventies, when Platshorn ran his transcontinental racket. Marijuana suppliers were family-run enterprises mediated by political figures and local law enforcement intent on keeping a lid on the trade while lining their own pockets. And he trusted his partners. They were his stoner buddies, and he knew they'd come through for him.
"It was a hippie era," Platshorn says. "You tell a guy you'll pay him $1 million, you pay him."
Those were the years before the cocaine blizzard swallowed South Florida, and Platshorn was just an entrepreneurial pothead leading the 007 existence he'd always dreamed of — and smoking some really good weed while he was at it.
Back in Florida, he had a handful of yachts at his disposal. From a posh suite at theFontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, he operated an auto auction, a marina club, and a barbershop. He used canal-front stash houses and wore stylish plaid leisure suits with broad collars as sharp as spearheads....
Platshorn and friends would be accused of smuggling, or at least attempting to smuggle, 500 tons of marijuana into the United States during the mid- to late Seventies. When the gang was busted in September 1978, the DEA proclaimed it the most sophisticated drug ring it had ever encountered.
Platshorn's 1980 conviction was a major coup for drug enforcement agencies, the first join FBI/DEA enterprise. In all, eight of the gang's central members were convicted in two federal trials, but the leaders — Platshorn and Robert Meinster — would pay the stiffest price: prison sentences totaling 108 years between them.
The rest here.