A look at the trials and tribulations of the marijuana smuggler…
By: Simon Eddisbury
Graduating from the university was the scariest moment of my life. It meant that it was time to get a job. Where most people attempt to put this off by spending a year travelling or doing nothing, I decided I could make a lot of money selling drugs. How hard could it be? Make a few drop-offs every day then sit around while counting my money seemed to be all there was to it, or so I thought.
Although selling drugs is actually pretty simple, I still managed to mess it up. My scales didnâ€™t work properly and I ended up having to guess how much to put in each bag. I also made the mistake of buying scented rather than non-scented talcum powder to cut my MDMA, which meant that all of my drugs had the vague scent of lavender. Perhaps my biggest problem was that I only had about five customers and one turned out to be an undercover cop.
I sold to the cop three times in all, once outside a shopping centre in direct view of a CCTV camera and twice outside a supermarket. With the third time I sold to her, I didnâ€™t have enough change to give her, so I decidedÂ to buyÂ some cheese from the supermarket in order to break a Â£10 note (Iâ€™m English, in case you hadnâ€™t guessed). I handed her the change and she gave me a look as if to say, â€œDid you actually just stop mid-deal to buy cheese?â€ The cheese incident was later used in court as proof that I was not an experienced drug dealer.
The police eventually raided my house and found the pair of faulty scales hidden in a Scrabble box and a few bags of drugs hidden in a soft toy. They concluded that I was a geek and an idiot because a professional criminal never keeps anything incriminating in their house. I was eventually charged with supplying ecstasy and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
During my time, I met countless scumbags without morals or empathy whatsoever. There were people who had hacked body parts off their victims, a cannibal who had killed somebody and eaten their thigh, and a man who allegedly learnt how to bypass his conscience when there was something to be gained from doing so. However, I also met some lovable, eccentric inmates who had made a living from committing non-violent, drug-related crimes. These were the people that made my sentence bearable, and amongst the most memorable of the bunch was a thrill-seeking marijuana importer nicknamed â€œBullâ€™s Ballsâ€ because it was said that he had the biggest set of testicles known to man (metaphorically speaking, that is). He described himself as a modern-day Long John Silver and provided me with insight into a world that few people get to hear about â€“ the world of the international cannabis smuggler.
Where a lot of criminals break the law for financial gain, Bullâ€™s Balls did it for the rush. He enjoyed the feeling that he got from getting one over on the police and relished the challenge of transporting large quantities of marijuana from Morocco without ending up in jail. â€œIf you get sent down over there you know about it,â€ he told me. â€œA friend of mine got into a shoot out with the Moroccan police a few years back whilst he was trying to bring a package across. They caught him and locked him up, and he got gang-raped by the Africans and killed himself.â€ I couldnâ€™t help feeling that shooting at people and imprisoning them in such a dangerous environment for transporting a bit of cannabis was completely uncalled for, especially considering the fact that the Moroccans had grown it there in the first place. It was as if Western governments were imposing their morals upon the rest of the world and seeking to contain the marijuana crops within the country where they had been grown.
Why do British and American governments allow Moroccans to carry on with farming cannabis if it was such a threat to the fabric of society? Surely they could find out where it was being grown and put a stop to it if they really wanted to. â€œOf course they could,â€ Bullâ€™s Balls agreed. â€œYou want to see the Rif Mountains, where the cannabis fields are? There are pot plants for as far as the eye can see. There are fields of it and itâ€™s how most of the local people make their money. Without it theyâ€™d all be out of a job.â€
The Rif Mountains are the worldâ€™s largest production area for hashish, providing the livelihood of some 800,000 people within the region â€“ thatâ€™s 10 times the population of the town that I live in! The reason that plantations are allowed to remain in existence is because they are such an integral part of the Moroccan economy. Taking away the cannabis industry would condemn hundreds of thousands of people to a life of poverty, so why are people like Bullâ€™s Balls regarded as public enemies then? It seems illogical to tolerate the growing of hashish, but not its transportation and sale.
Although it is arguable that the cannabis farmers were being exploited by their employers, Bullâ€™s Balls maintained that he had always treated them with the utmost respect during his dealings with them. â€œWe even gave them a few little gifts,â€ he told me. â€œBefore I set off to Morocco I managed to steal a load of prison uniforms from the local jail. My friend was in there, so I got him to throw them over the walls to me. We handed them out to the farmers and they loved them! Can you imagine that? All of them Africans parading around in Her Majestyâ€™s prison tops up this big mountain surrounded by weed plants!â€ I had to admit, it sounded like a very surreal situation.
â€œThe Moroccans are good people,â€ he went on. â€œI lived with them for a couple of months and helped them to press the weed into blocks, thatâ€™s the fun part.Â The difficult bit is getting it across to Spain. There are two ways of doing it, you can go in a boat called a Zodiac, which is fast enough to go straight across without the police getting to you, or you can sneak around them and go a slightly longer route in a motorboat. Iâ€™ve done both and the motorboat is by far the scarier of the two. Iâ€™ve had twelve foot waves all around me and the boat was only twelve feet from one side to the other!â€ He was risking life and limb so consenting adults could smoke a naturally occurring substance with many medicinal properties to it.Â If the government were to legalise marijuana, it could be shipped aboard commercial vessels, negating the need for those transporting it in ill-equipped forms of transportation.
Once he had reached the coast of Spain, Bullâ€™s Balls would drive his cargo to the popular tourist resort of Marbella in the Costa del Sol, where it was to be vacuum packed and prepared for shipment to the UK. â€œThere are a lot of British criminals in the Costa,â€ he explained to me. â€œMost of them are from Liverpool, where Iâ€™m from. They work in the bars during the holiday season, but the rest of the time theyâ€™re out of a job, so they do grafts [illegal activities].â€
The Costa del Sol has been dubbed the â€œCosta del Crimeâ€ by the British tabloids and is a well-known haunt for competing drug gangs from Liverpool, London, Ireland and Eastern Europe. It has been the site of several violent incidents over the years, including the gangland shooting of suspected Liverpool drug trafficker Marvin Herbert in 2008, who was another casualty of the Western worldâ€™s futile war on drugs. â€œIt gets a bit hectic there at times,â€ Bullâ€™s Balls told me. â€œMostly everyone just gets on with things though. They used to ferry the drugs around during the siesta, when it was quiet, but the police are well onto it now, so itâ€™s a bit harder.â€
Liverpool has a long history of smuggling dating back to the 1700â€™s when high duties on spirits, tea, and tobacco meant that sailors would often bring in such goods illegally. Back in those days the wares would be sold to street vendors, who were the eighteenth century equivalent of drug dealers. Just as unreasonable taxes on certain products have led to organised crime in the years gone by, the prohibition of marijuana has provided the perfect opportunity for criminal gangs to prosper. By persecuting those who make a living from selling soft drugs, the government has paved the way for illegal drug cartels to dominate the market. They have elevated the crime rate in places like Liverpool and Marbella beyond recognition. Nobody is out burglarizing houses or stealing handbags from little old ladies because they smoke a bit of weed every now and again, so why do the law enforcement agencies place it in the same category as crack and heroin? Smugglers exist because the laws of the land are vastly different from the laws of common sense. A study carried out by the Liberal Democrat Party in July 2010, found that 70% of the British population favour the legalisation of cannabis, so why are people like Bullâ€™s Balls having to risk their lives and immerse themselves in the world of organised crime to facilitate its sale?
On the day of my release Bullâ€™s Balls came bounding across to me on the yard and shook my hand. â€œMake sure that you remember to tell your friends about the modern-day Long John Silver!â€ he told me. I had the feeling that he had enjoyed telling me about his adventures a little too much and the next person to share a cell with him would have smuggling stories coming out of their ears. He was certainly a character; the chances of him ever giving up smuggling were second to none â€“ his eyes lit up at the very mention of the word. As we said our farewells, I couldnâ€™t help thinking that he would be in the papers in a few yearsâ€™ time under the headline, â€œUKâ€™s Biggest Drug Bust Ever.â€ He was a criminal through and through, but there was a certain charm in the way he talked about his escapades. Although he had also smuggled cocaine over from Columbia, I felt that the shipments of cannabis he had brought across had done society a service. Without people who were willing to put their lives on the line to transport marijuana across the seas, the UK would be deprived of the chance to partake in a drug that causes a fraction of the harm inflicted by alcohol and tobacco. So Bullâ€™s Balls, if youâ€™re reading this, less of the coke and more of the weed â€“ and try not to get caught this time!!!
You can read more about Bullâ€™s Ballsâ€™ adventures on the high seas in my new book â€œLowlife â€“ Life in British Prisons with Drug Dealers, Gun Runners and Murderers,â€ available from John Blake Publishing