By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Lucky isn't nervous driving with pot in his car inside the Triangle. Last year, a cop pulled him over while he was driving south to Orange County in an SUV. Following him at a safe distance was a tow truck hauling Lucky's other car, which happened to be laden with 100 pounds of marijuana. The cop, who had no idea about the tow truck, was nevertheless convinced Lucky was carrying weed in the SUV.
"You got some weed in the trunk?" the cop had asked. "You mind if I take a look?"
"No, it's cool," Lucky answered.
As he began to open the trunk, the cop stopped him. "If you've got 15 pounds in there, you're cool," he'd warned. "You've got 20; you get a ticket. You got anything more than 20, you've got a problem."
The worst time to be pulled over by a cop in the Emerald Triangle is at the end of the summer, Lucky says. "At the end of the season, when all the weed has to leave this area, 40 percent of the cops working up here are from Southern California, and they come up here just to rape the people, taking all their weed and money."
Between Oct. 15 and Dec. 15, Lucky explains, roughly four out of every 10 cars on the road is loaded down with marijuana, and both the freeway and the small towns it crosses are crawling with narcs. They're watching the hotels, where East Coast buyers stay for a week before blowing through half a million bucks, arranging pot deals, as well as the gas stations and car washes. "You never want to drive into town with mud all over your truck," he says. "That's a sign right there that you've just driven off the mountain, and that's probable cause. That's the first lesson of coming off the mountain :Clean your car. And never fucking stay at one of the shitty motels in town; they're crawling with undercover cops. It's so stupid that people think it's cool to do that."
Having made the trip south to Orange County more times than he can remember, Lucky has learned all the secrets to successfully smuggling weed, which is why he's hasn't been caught.
"You get your truck loaded down—I would never go over 150 or 200 pounds—and you get the fuck off the mountain at 4:30 in the morning on a Monday, and you're in the rush-hour traffic headed to work," he says. "There are so many thousands of cars on the roads that their odds of being able to pick somebody are just shattered, and your odds of getting through are that much more increased. Drive the speed limit and try to stay close to cars that are shady-looking—teenagers, kids—anyone who looks more suspicious than you."
* * *
Willits, California, is the hometown of the world-famous Skunk Train and the birthplace of the Proto Pipe, a small, metal contraption that allows you to store a gram of pot in a chamber that screws into the pipe and is held in place by a small poker that you can pull out and push into the holes in the bottom of the bowl for cleaning purposes. After dining on pizza at a restaurant there, we stop by a head shop north of town. The shop reeks of weed, and when we walk in, the red-eyed fellow working the cash register hastily puts out his joint in an ashtray.
Now that we've made it through most of the Triangle, Lucky is eager to purchase a smoking device so he can start puffing once we're back on the road. As he peruses the hundreds of glass pipes on display, he tells the cashier about the cop who was prepared to let him off for carrying anything less than 20 pounds of weed. The cashier's Latino friend, who is rolling joints on the countertop, curses in disgust.
"You have to be fucking white for that to happen," he fumes. "Because that shit does not happen to me. The cops up here will fuck with a local any time of day. The only people he won't pull over are a bunch of dread-headed niggas because he'll know he'll get shot."
The pissed-off joint-roller glances over at the cashier. "That shit ever happen to you?" he asks. "Get let go with 10 pounds?"
"Fuck no, never," the cashier responds.
Lucky's story seems to irritate the cashier. "You're lucky you're not from here," he continues. "You're from here and get pulled over with 15 ounces, and you're going straight to Lodi. You ever spend three nights in a holding cell with no shirt on, dog? Sleeping on concrete? Now, we've got all these fucking people coming here who are filling up the county—all these fools who think marijuana is legal. It may be legal everywhere else, but the reality up here is much more brutal."
Lucky selects a hookah-shaped pipe with a large glass bowl that can be filled with water and is designed to fit inside a car's beverage holder. As he pays, the cashier offers us some parting words of advice. "My family goes back four generations up here," he begins. "They lived here, they never left, and they're not going away, no matter what comes here or goes from here. There are a lot of people buried in these hills, bro. It's a lot deeper than just fucking scratching the surface. I wouldn't scratch too deep."