Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja is a 2011 documentary that details the thrilling life and times of the cannabis smugglers operating throughout Miami, Florida during the 1970’s. Amongst the dealers and smugglers featured in the documentary is Robert Platshorn, a.k.a. “Bobby Tuna,” a man responsible for transporting millions of dollars worth of contraband from South America to South Florida using everything from yachts to DC-3’s to do so.
Platshorn and a majority of his business associates were eventually arrested in 1978 during a highly-publicized series of raids as part of a joint FBI/DEA operation that targeted a majority of the smugglers operating throughout South Florida. Demonized by the authorities and media as “The Black Tuna Gang,” Platshorn and the rest of his cohorts were declared to be the most sophisticated organized crime syndicate the government had ever encountered, and were eventually found guilty. He was sentenced to 64 years, the largest amount ever handed down for smuggling cannabis.
28 years later Platshorn was out of prison and author of “The Black Tuna Diaries,” his own enlightening account of the time he spent as a smuggler in South Florida and the subsequent, highly publicized, arrest and trial. He’s also a cannabis legalization advocate, published author, director for NORML and the lead spokesperson for “The Silver Tour,” dedicated to informing older members of the voting public about how cannabis legalization can positively affect them.
After Proposition 19 was voted down in California back in 2010, Platshorn researched the facts to figure out why. “I looked at the exit polls,” he says, “but despite all of the bullshit about how the growers and dispensaries didn’t want it, it didn’t matter, they didn’t vote.” Platshorn noticed that seniors voted 65% against Proposition 19, mostly because of fear or misinformation. “There was only one group talking to seniors and that was the beer lobby in California. They scared seniors by saying there would be stoners and drunks on the road,” he says.
Platshorn’s background in journalism prepared him for the first step, which was equipping his target audience with the facts they needed to know about medicinal cannabis. “Most seniors weren’t really talking about marijuana. They didn’t even know it was good for multiple sclerosis or so much else.” He started his tour out in Florida, but it wasn’t easy. “There wasn’t even a senior community that would let me talk to them. I would call them up and offer to bring a doctor or a nurse, but they just said no.”
After reading about how doctors in Israel had studied the benefits of cannabis to the point that many modern rabbis had declared the plant kosher for people of the Jewish faith, Platshorn approached temples across the state to discuss it. ”Pretty soon I had rabbis all over asking me to talk about my message. Many of the temples I spoke to have a lot of seniors. Those shows cost me $1,500-$2,000 to put on, but we are a 501c3, tax exempt.”
He’s quick to point out that his work is entirely free of charge. “I’ve never made a penny.” Seniors were also interested in cannabis is because it is an affordable alternative to mainstream pharmaceuticals. “When they found out that they didn’t need Ambien or Lunesta, and that they could smoke cannabis instead, this really surprised them.” The people Platshorn speaks to are also interested in how cannabis can be used to treat other mental disorders. “They are terrified of Alzheimer’s,” he says. “I’ve got a lot of calls from senior communities about that.”