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.

Medicine Highway

What did I and at least 15 close friends have in common during the 70’s and 80’s?  NVMOS – No Visible Means Of Support. Maybe it was just the times, but a lot of people made good money and yet didn’t have jobs. It was actually quite typical to see long-haired hippies buy some acreage and build a custom home stashed in the woods. True, many were, as Joni Mitchell sang, “refugees from wealthy families”, or what we now call Trust-Funders or “Trustafarians” should they also have the requisite stringy dreadlocks so prevalent among younger kids who have inherited a shitload of money. Still, there were plenty of us who had no other answer except that is was our involvement with drugs that paid our way. I’m sure a few of you can relate.

The Princes of Peyote were the conduit for most of the medicine that reached the international hippie world of the late 1960’s and well through the 1970’s. I wrote about these merry fellows in an earlier article that chronicled their rise as the two white guys who were connected with Native American Church members, the primary peyote importers of the entire United States. These Navajo men had legal US government permits to import 250,000 – 500,000 buttons per load from northern Mexico or southern Texas.  The Princes were each receiving typical loads of 100-150,000 buttons when the Navajos made a delivery. They in turn depended upon a loose network of dealers that would buy 5,000 – 20,000 buttons at a time and distribute them through their personal circles. Imagine 500,000 peyote buttons making their way every year to the stomachs, minds, and hearts of Americans from Iowa to New York and San Diego to Tacoma. Canada got its fair share because of close “friends of the peyotero family” and I know of French, Swiss, and UK connections that served their own markets, too. Even my good Colombian companion Gerardo, AKA Peter, shared buttons with the New York cartel, well, at least those who were more experimental by nature and willing to take the leap. Medicine slowly made its way around the globe and left a trail of inner-space astronauts who had journeyed to the Milky Way and far beyond.

One of the Princes’ good friends, Greg, had a relative in the SF Bay area who was quite the chemist. His specialty was to extract from peyote the purest mescaline sulphate crystals that you’ve ever seen. All he needed was fresh peyote buttons, lots and lots of buttons. I had the great fortune to get some of his finished product and experiment with it 2 or 3 times in the mid-70’s. The crystals were ¾” to 1” long, transparent, and literally thin as a needle. When dumped out onto a plate they resembled the thin plastic needles of the game “Pick-Up Sticks” though not quite as long. Pour them out and gaze in wonder by the intricate stacking and weaving that the crystalline needles would form. Nothing else on the market looked like them. Cocaine in all of its forms from Mother of Pearl Bolivian flake to Colombian crystals had entirely different mineral shapes and the street “Mesc” or “Chocolate Mesc” you could buy from your local dealer was merely low doses of LSD or Psilocybin cut with mannitol or flour.

True mescaline sulphate crystals cost anywhere from $10 -$20 on the street per individual trip because of the amount of peyote necessary to make a single dose, the chemicals involved, and the Chemist’s time. That hit of $3 Mesc you bought on the Hill in Boulder was just a gimmick. The Chemist once sent us several grams as a gift and explained the difficulty of maintaining a secure source for peyote as well as the risk of purchasing large quantities of high-purity chemicals. If you didn’t have the Navajo connection in one way or another, you were out of the game.

Greg and his young pal Mark were a tight team so once they got started supplying the Chemist with buttons they always drove together for safety and companionship. A typical load would be 60,000 buttons packed into the plain-Jane camper shell stuck on the back of Greg’s aging 1970’s Toyota pick-up truck. If you opened the camper shell door there wasn’t even enough empty space to add a 6-pack of beer. It was filled to the top; all the way forward, with burlap bags of fresh peyote, the same bags that the Navajos had delivered to their close friend and supplier, the Prince who lived in the Verde Valley of north-central Arizona.

On one particular load, which Greg explained later had shown plenty of indications that foreshadowed that is was a bad time to travel, the two of them were headed across a deserted section of a Nevada two-lane highway. It was well after midnight when Greg, while taking his turn as driver, bleary-eyed and tired from driving high with no breaks or pit stops for many hours, glimpsed the headlights of an oncoming vehicle suddenly turn directly at him. The driver of the oncoming truck, as it turned out, fell asleep at that very moment, crossed the centerline, and smashed head-on with the boys’ truck. Mark, Greg’s partner and co-pilot, had been sound asleep. He woke up flying through the air. When the dust settled both Greg and Mark had been thrown out of their tiny Toyota truck, no seatbelts I assume, and were crawling around in the desert trying to figure out what had happened. Miraculously they were unharmed except for minor cuts and bruises.

The other truck’s driver was dead and bloody, still at the wheel of his big Ford truck, and both vehicles were thoroughly demolished. Scattered across the highway were chrome bumpers, radiator parts, lots of glass, bent metal, and thousands and thousands of peyote buttons.

Mark later told me that they realized that their only hope was to clean up the peyote and hide it out in the desert before anyone came along. Though they didn’t think they would get this done in time and would probably get caught, they had no choice but to try. Any vehicle approaching the massive accident site that night would certainly stop to help and the Nevada Highway Patrol wouldn’t show up long after being alerted. Quickly as they could, in an altered state of mind to be sure, the guys gathered every last button and bag and stashed them 200 meters out in that desert. They kept expecting to get busted, but no other vehicle came along on that lonely stretch of highway for many hours until just before sunrise. They even had time to brush out their footprints and tracks made from dozens of back and forth hikes out to their stash spot in the desert.

Peyote is called Medicine by some Navajos and for a good reason. It protects. It heals. And in some cases it makes oneself invisible.

Greg and Mark had a delicate time talking with the Nevada Highway Patrol that morning and then headed to the nearest town where their truck had been towed. They didn’t want to wait too long so they rented a truck and headed back out to the site of the accident the next evening after a good night’s rest in town. At the crash site they quickly loaded up the burlap bags of buttons and headed on toward Berkeley in the San Francisco bay area. They delivered that load to the Chemist who went right to work making the world a little better thanks to his creative alchemy. The happy minions across the globe who shared in his magic mescaline sulphate crystals would find whatever they were looking for because that’s part of Mescaline magic. You get what you are looking for. No more, no less.

As a footnote to this story, Mark came home and bought a new, used truck with cash. And yes, he didn’t have a job and was a NVMOS candidate for sure. But who was really looking when 1,000s of hippies did their thing back then? Cops just looked at hippies and created their own picture of what they did and who they were, so all in all everything was equal and money came and went. Unless you spent big bucks on expensive toys and flashed friendly Franklins all over your small town gaining unwanted attention, you could get away with it for years and years. Maybe forever. I know some of you are prime examples and still at it !

Mark always kept back 1,000 buttons or so out of his cut of the profit for sharing with friends. One friend, Stickman, was driven by Mark to Sky Harbor in Phoenix to catch a plane to his home in Chicago. Mark stayed with him until it was almost flight time and then watched his buddy pass through the metal detector while his bags went through the x-ray machine via the conveyor belt. As Mark watched from a short, safe distance, the Airport Authority guard pulled his bag aside for examination, opened his friend’s suitcase, and pulled out a large Zip-Lock bag full of peyote, maybe 200 dried buttons packed tightly inside. The guard held the bag in the air, examining it front and back, then said, “What’s this?” Stickman later told Mark that he had answered, “It’s cactus seed.” The guard, nodding, seemed to agree and put it back in his bag. Stick winked at Mark as he scurried on to catch his flight.

Ah, the life.