The Selected Quirks of Madjag

The Madjag Chronicles were compiled as memoirs and mental snapshots of my experiences during the 1978-1982 guerrilla growing years in Madjag Canyon and beyond. Importing weed from Mexico, lining up connections with the Colombians, and living for months in Jamaica to set up a 1/2 ton Ganja flight were some of my subsequent adventures. In recent years I have been a medical marijuana grower, a pollen chucker, and an Admin/Moderator for several online cannabis forums.

10,000 Seeds For Felix Gallardo

As I’ve mentioned before, I really love to find great grow sites. It’s a passion, sort of an addiction. As I drive, hike, or backpack through rural and outback territories, I can’t help but examine and evaluate the spots I encounter for their guerrilla weed growing potential. Weird, eh?

I’ve discovered or helped to discover 4 outstanding wilderness grow sites over the years. Each one produced for a year, one site for two years, and my favorite site, the Legend, sustained harvests for three excellent years. That last site is still ready and waiting for another boost…

When I initially jumped into guerrilla growing, I needed an additional income for getting by during that first year. I worked here and there for friends and was able to patch together enough dough to pay the bills, however the primary grow supplies like fertilizer, seed, and a good gas-powered pump, drive gas for to-and-from, a tent, and the many nozzles and fittings required for a wilderness garden were out of my reach. Like an amateur poker player wanting a chance to play in Vegas, I had to find a way to make an initial stake. Then I’d be ready to commit to a year in the wild growing weed.

My friend Honey the Mover had a possible answer. His recent connections in old Mexico, were just dying to have him take half a ton of sinsemilla off their hands. Credit? No problema:  “Weeds Are Us”. Indeed it looked like we could be successful in creating our stake and getting back to the canyon.

I entertained the idea as a joke at first. Seriously, how could we ever believe such a far-fetched proposition, that someone he barely knew would offer to front half a ton of primo Mexican herb with no strings attached? What we didn’t realize just then was that the entire Mexican weed world was going berserk from over-production and the overflow had to be sent out somehow. The nascent cartels were in turmoil and needed customers and they were throwing herb at the borders by the ton. Honey’s connection, as strange as it seemed, would actually turn out to be one of the primary herb sources in all of Mexico, run by a mysterious man named Miguel. How the hell did Honey Boy ever fall in with such a family?

I’ve previously explained in a another article how Honey and I met and ultimately worked together for a few years. The following story tells how we went to meet the man in Mexico and establish solid credibility, the type of trust necessary for opening all the doors required for getting into major importing virtually overnight.

Miguel was a rising star in the Mexican Narco world at the time we travelled to Guadalajara for our initial visit with him and his crew. Honey and I were bringing a surprise that we felt Miguel would enjoy, our very own Colombian, my good friend Gerardo, AKA, Peter. Gerardo would join us somewhere in Guadalajara after arriving on his own from Colombia. Contacts were everything at this level of the import-export world and a solid Colombo contact with deep ties in the heartland could mean the kind of bonus returns we were always hoping for when these intro meetings took place. Not that I have ever witnessed that many initial meetings at this level anyway because it’s rare to be accepted in other worlds unless you’ve earned the trust that accompanies that specific world and its members. You usually need a quite bit of time for that kind of trust to become real.

Mr. C, my trusty pilot friend, had lived on and off in Afghanistan for several years when he began importing a bit of hash in suitcase false walls and other small-time methods that were feasible in 1967. By 1985 he was directing boats with 40-60 tons. Yes, tons. The particular acceptance that he enjoyed among the hash suppliers was from spending days and days in remote villages as well as from supplying his own money and logistical expertise when he began his hashish importing career in the late 1960’s. He carefully increased his moves over the years and eventually the Afghani tribesmen and their export crews gave him the encouragement to move more weight by accepting fronted loads. It was the next logical step that no money could buy. Mr. C had earned their respect and trust by doing what he said he would do and when he said he would do it, golden credentials in most business situations.

Our hope was that Honey’s first few runs across the border in the Cessna and the helicopter that he stole for them would open the doors in Mexico in much the same way as Mr. C had in Afghanistan. We were successful, it turned out, however even more had been planned on Miguel’s end that eventually diverted our hopes for becoming weed import kings. They saw coca dollars in our future, something that Peter and I were adamantly against and Honey simply couldn’t resist.

We also came bearing a second gift; two massive quart-size Zip-Lock bags full of excellent weed seed. Ironically it was a mixed collection of Oaxacan, Guerreran, Sinaloan, and Sonoran seeds that had been high-graded over the last 3-4 years by a long time Tempe dealer friend of mine, Roberto.  Looking back now it’s hard to fathom that we were illegally importing weed seed back into Mexico…what a concept! Honey, ever the cowboy, stuffed a huge baggy into each of his big-ass western boots without any concern for US Customs on the way out of Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. Coming back into the US we were always 100% clean, but going? No worries he said. He was correct, too.

Our international flight into Puerto Vallarta for transfer to a smaller local jet to Guadalajara was smooth and easy, however the clouds building up for the afternoon thunderstorms didn’t look too inviting as we boarded the smaller Mexican prop-jet that carried maybe 80 locals, plus Honey and me, into the dark skies that loomed ahead. About 15 minutes into our flight the pilots felt the need to plunge directly into a towering Cumulonimbus anvil cloud at least 5 miles high. I was bummed and scared. The plane began pitching with the wings bending from the intense pressure of what Honey explained could amount to a 1,000 foot climb by the jet in just a few seconds. I had never witnessed huge jet wings bending in the range of 3-6 feet, well-curved in the middle, nor had I ever experienced turbulence so great that the flight attendants flipped whole trays of open cup Coca Cola onto passengers as they tumbled off their feet and into the crowded seats. Not until that day….

Boeing had completed the ultimate load wing up-bending test on the 787 static test unit, ZY997, at its facility in Everett, Washington. The air-framer says that it applied loads to replicate 150% of the most extreme forces the airplane could experience while in service, resulting in the wings being flexed upward by approximately 25ft (7.6m) during the test. In order to achieve certification, the US FAA requires aircraft structure to withstand 150% of limit loading for 3s. Look at the wings in the picture above and tell me if you ever knew that this was possible. WTF!

Honey reassured me that one of the methods used for testing jet wing flexibility was to mount the plane by the wingtips from two towers, while slowly lowering the airplane’s fuselage. He said most large planes could flex as much a 15 feet before the wings cracked or ripped from the fuselage. “Thanks, Honey, that makes me feel so much better right now,” I muttered feebly as the Mexican women around me were chanting prayers loudly, crying out of fear, and kneeling on the floor by their seats. It was a scene from a movie that I would have rather not seen. It was one of those moments, probably like the one we’ll all experience should we die from an accidental death, where time and thought meld and melt, where in the blink of an eye it all goes dark.

Our flight made it through. I wanted to kiss the ground as I walked down the steps and onto the tarmac. I was shaken up enough to last lifetime. Whether the event had actually bothered him or not, Honey just smiled and geared up for business. When I asked about the seriousness of the situation we had just shared he laughed and said, “If you think that that was bad, you should try it in a small Cessna with a 500 kilos.”  OK, sure Honey.

Somehow Honey knew where to go in order to meet our first contact, one of Miguel’s trusted Lieutenants known as “Wapo”. We took a taxi to a modest two-story motel in the heart of town and were guided to a room that had several guys seated around a long coffee table. As we entered and took our seats, Wapo introduced himself and two other tough looking guys that were assisting him. Later we discovered that they were his bodyguards. They did errands like bringing case after case of beer to the meeting as well as to break out a multi-ounce pile of coke and place it on a plate in the middle of the table. Wapo went first, maybe to placate us, and snorted up a healthy portion. We followed and broke into the beer, too. The late afternoon sky outside was heading toward sundown just as we began our long night of partying. Good timing I thought, but Honey and I were all still a bit reluctant when it came to feeling comfortable in such an alien environment and letting down our guard. What was next?

Somehow Peter showed up and I can’t honestly remember how he knew how to get there. He must have had Wapo’s phone number to call because the meeting was taking place during pre-cellphone days and we had no way ourselves of making contact until he actually walked right in. That was definitely part of Peter’s mystique and the strange power that he used so well. He spoke fluent Spanish and was very dark-skinned from hanging out in the abundant sunshine in his rural Cali, Colombia home, two qualities that enabled him to blend in and move about in Mexico with relative ease. Making a payphone call in Mexico, in Spanish, from another part of town and then grabbing a cab was second nature for him whereas for us gringos the language barrier would be hell. Imagine coking out and then trying to manage your inner city travel plans alone, without speaking the language, and looking a bit out of place. Can you say “come get me, I’m a target?

Luckily it turned out that we were more highly-regarded guests than we had anticipated. Honey’s previous gifts to the group and his solid service had impressed Miguel’s organization, opening the door much wider than he had thought. I could tell that our discomfort was not shared by Wapo and crew. They were being genuinely friendly and handing us the key to the city. We were famished so the party was postponed while we were treated to a nice meal at a nearby sushi bar. Strange, eh, to have some of the best sushi in the world in Guadalajara, the last place I’d expect. But why not, there was fresh seafood nearby in two oceans and the sushi chef was a friend of the family who had great local fish connections.

Our sushi tsunami seemed endless as the owner, also the head chef, spoke happily in Spanish to Wapo and Peter, in English to Honey and me, and in Japanese to his employees. The sake flowed freely, too, and the chef did shot after shot to match our always full cups. I was truly glad that I wasn’t driving that night because the goodies intake got a bit out of hand. Once we hit the motel it was back to coca products and beer, what can I say? The things we do in the name of business! Finally the bodyguard crew brought back a late dessert, 3 or 4 ladies who were destined to stay the evening. Man, it’s a good thing I wasn’t on a diet….

Peter had been careful to leave his Colombian passport in plain sight on a table next to his bed so that Wapo and crew would have ample opportunity to secretly take a look at it when Peter was out of the room and in the party pen. He knew that they would check him out and this way they didn’t have to ask him his real name, be concerned about his details, or him lying to them. They could do it on the sly instead. Peter was such a trickster, I’m telling you, and had so much fun playing with people’s minds. He wasn’t the least bit scared in that environment, like I was, and made himself at home, showing great respect and gratitude to every one of his hosts. They dug his attitude totally and he was instantly like family. And I was dazzled. It was like I had befriended Superman and was tagging along as Superboy with no green Kryptonite in sight. Peter was conquering the weed world like Bruce Lee, dancing and weaving through the ever-present danger with ease. A drug diplomat with an endless appetite for fun, excitement, and danger, he had learned his lessons well back home in Cali. Mexico was a new playground for him, but nothing close to the danger level of the Colombian coca scene.

We had no idea until later that Wapo wasn’t the big boss that we thought he was and that we were actually being tested by a man named Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the lord of Mexican drug lords who incidentally owned the motel we were staying at as well as many more. We would read about Miguel a few years later when Newsweek covered the Mexican-Colombian connection and the rebirth of Mexican drug cartels. He was the first narco trafficker to combine several “plazas” or regional trafficking groups, into one highly-organized, efficient cartel. Had we realized who was actually pulling Honey’s strings and had invited us with the intention of checking us out in person, I would have never gone to Guadalajara and would have sent Peter and Honey on the mission alone. Miguel was already in the top ranks of America’s “Most Wanted” at that time in 1980. We had danced with the devil and didn’t have a clue.

The day after our welcome party, sushi dinner, and female treats we gave Wapo the two huge Ziplock baggies of seeds. He was astonished and said that because they were working on producing only sinsemilla, the seedless top quality mota that we all treasured, they had inadvertently bred themselves out of a sufficient supply of seeds!  They had an urgent need for quality seed and we had come to the rescue. Later we learned that Rafa Caro Quintaro, Miguel’s partner in the cannabis growing business, was truly excited to have scored our seed stash. It was also highly likely that our seed gift might have even saved their budding (no pun intended) operation, the same operation that 3 years later in 1984 would culminate as Rancho Bufalo, the largest marijuana grow on record in Mexico covering 1,344 acres, an area roughly 2 miles by one mile in size.

We were basking in a golden light reserved for only a few and we knew that we had best make use of our sweet, new fortune as quickly as possible. In the Mexican marijuana trade, even back then, fortunes had a way of changing hands in the blink of an eye. Peter wanted to make sure his Colombo connections could find new power in Guadalajara so we had no time to spare.

We were like the small flame that helps ignite a massive forest fire. Honey’s newly established trust with the Sinaloans eventually lead to their air force delivering to a small airstrip I had selected in the Mogollon Rim country. We did 3 loads of of top-quality sinsemilla, 1,000 pounds each time, and felt that the strip was too risky to continue using. Honey and his brother’s Phoenix crew decided to switch to cocaine smuggling.  We wanted nothing to do with coke so we parted ways at this point. It wasn’t until a year or two later that we heard the news on the radio that a huge coke bust, about 1,680 lbs, had taken place on the the main dirt road leading out of that same airstrip’s region. Sure enough, we soon discovered that it was Honey’s brother, though we had no idea of the magnitude of their imports over the year or two since we had parted company. Under the pressure of examination and probably the threat of a long prison sentence, the main Phoenix off-loading handler (Honey’s brother?) cooperated with the authorities and said that their bust’s load was one of nine similar loads of equal or greater size that they had managed to bring in using this remote airstrip.

As Robert de Niro’s character in the powerful espionage movie “Ronin” said,

If there’s a doubt, there is no doubt”. And so it was.