Robert Platshorn, Who Served Almost 30 Years in Prison for Pot, Is Finally a Free Man
The Black Tuna, Robert Platshorn (right), with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
Robert Platshorn is getting high today. That is, he's going on an airplane. High Times called him up yesterday to say that he's being gifted free tickets to this weekend's Cannabis Cup in Seattle. The reason? After 28 years in prison and six years on probation for smuggling weed, the West Palm Beach resident is finally a free man.
The 71-year-old was part of the Black Tuna Gang -- a sophisticated drug ring that became the feds' first big bust in the War on Drugs. In the ensuing years, he's become a pot icon. Not only has he served the longest-ever sentence for a marijuana-related crime but he's become an outspoken advocate on the benefits of medical cannabis for seniors.
See also: Black Tuna Gang Leader Gets Out of Jail
Platshorn has been on parole since April Fool's Day of 2008 and never expected to be off it. He applied for release anyway about four-and-a-half months ago but says he never thought it would be granted.
"My lawyer would keep calling Congressman Deutch, but the answer would always be 'next week,'" he says. "The request would just lie on someone's desk."
He had another reason to be hopeless apart from governmental indifference. For a year, Platshorn had a parole officer who would let him travel to proselytize the healing powers of weed and use cannabis oil to treat his skin cancer. Then he got switched to the tyrannical Scott T. Kirsche, who was fond of subjecting him to random urine tests and had banned him from continuing his Silver Tour.
When the parolee got a call from Kirsche yesterday afternoon, he groaned.
"I thought it meant trouble, since he's never brought good news," Platshorn says. "As soon as I heard his name, I assumed it was a urine test. But no."
Apparently, Platshorn's request had been granted on August 21. In a state of shock, he posted the announcement on social media. And rather than go out and celebrate, he sat replying to the hundreds upon hundreds of supporters who offered their congratulations.
So now that he's free, what does he think about having spent more than 30 years under the government's thumb for a plant that's almost certainly on the cusp of becoming federally legal? The gray-haired septuagenarian says he's just glad that his insane situation gave him a platform to preach.
"It makes me feel good knowing that other people won't have to go to prison like I did, and seniors with MS or Crohn's or glaucoma will be able to get a safe and effective medicine that doesn't cost them an arm and a leg and has absolutely no known side effects."
Newly energized, he plans to embark on a campaign to get the senior vote out in favor of Amendment 2. But first, he plans to enjoy the hell out of Cannabis Cup.
"I don't wanna look back and be miserable now that things are getting so much better," he says. "You have no idea how good it feels to be free for the first time since September 1978."
Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.