Meet the Black Tuna: An Interview with Activist Robert Platshorn

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Many modern activists tip their hats to the growers, dealers and smugglers who kept cannabis alive and the marijuana market thriving during decades of prohibition and eradication programs. Robert Platshorn a.k.a. Bobby Tuna and his boyhood friend Robert Meinster, dubbed by Uncle Sam The Black Tuna Gang, were responsible for bringing large quantities of the fabled Santa Marta Gold into South Florida using Yachts and WWII transport planes. out of Miami in the 1970s. The Black Tuna Gang was indicted after a little over a year of operation. After an eight month show trial, Mr. Platshorn was sentenced to sixty-four years. He served almost thirty years in eleven federal prisons followed by seven more years on parole that finally ended on August 21st, 2014.

Still very engaging and spry at 72, very little about Mr. Platshorn would indicate his criminal history or his decades of incarceration. Other than his passion, the first thing one notices about this man is his intelligence. After getting out of prison, he penned The Black Tuna Diaries, a tell-all book about his experiences smuggling cannabis and his three decade stint in prison. There are both digital and printed copies of this tome available. He recently published a second book, Greed and Evil, whose focus is exposing the forces that keeping cannabis illegal and what can be done to stop them. Hint: it’s all about money for a few people.

Instead of being bitter about his lost time and the need to restart after so long away from society, Robert dove headlong into efforts to make the world a better place, and to him that meant to legalize marijuana. He was enthusiastic, but many people insisted Florida was a lost cause. Bobby Tuna, however, approached this issue logically. If the huge blocs of Boomer and Greatest Gen Floridians were what was keeping Florida from legalization, then those were the people activists should be targeting.

An engaged, full audience of 400 at the Valencia Lakes Silver Tour

An engaged, full audience of 400 at the Valencia Lakes Silver Tour

Unfortunately, not much about popular cannabis culture is immediately accessible to older folks. So Mr. Platshorn realized there was one obvious answer: take the information about medical marijuana to the people who most needed it and the biggest voting bloc that could make the biggest impact on state policy. Thus, the Silver Tour was born. Mr. Platshorn regularly speaks to large groups of senior citizens, debunking common misconceptions about cannabis and explaining its many medical benefits. He has positively affected the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of Florida seniors. Many, if not most, of these seniors suffer chronic or debilitating medical conditions that can be easily and safely treated with cannabis.

Next month, The Silver Tour in partnership with NORML of Florida and a number of other pro-cannabis organizations is organizing The Grand Rally in Tally. On February 10th, Robert will bring a thousand seniors, veterans, patients, students and medical marijuana supporters to the state capital in Tallahassee to support state Senator Jeff Clemens who will be introducing a comprehensive medical marijuana bill in the Florida Senate. There will be a huge tent with hundreds of seats, a stage, a free buffet, professional speakers (along with other entertainment), a press conference and a chance to lobby lawmakers. Robert is raising the cash to pay for this important event with GoFundMe. Much of what has been raised is from small donors and a few sponsors like 1000 Watts Magazine, High Times Magazine and AccuVape. Robert needs to find a few more sponsors and a lot more donors to make this a huge attention-getting event that will send a strong signal to lawmakers. Read on to hear more about this very motivated activist in his own words!

LB: You recently received the High Times “Freedom Fighter of the Year” and attended a Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. How did it feel to travel abroad after so long?

RP: Folks who’ve read my memoir Black Tuna Diaries know that in my mid-twenties, I lived in London and had branches of my Dynamic Reading schools throughout England, Holland and Germany. Amsterdam has always been my favorite city for many reasons that go way beyond the cannabis culture there. By the second day, even after a forty year absence, I was as comfortable as if I had never left.

Watching the thousands of bicycles, the ice-skaters, the outdoor cafes, the canals, buildings that predate the settlement of America and the polite well-dressed population, I remembered that I was in one the oldest and most important centers of western culture.

LB: Did the disruption of the Cup by city authorities impact your stay?

RP:Because the police cancellation of the exhibit venue came at the very last minute, thousands had already arrived from the USA and countries around the world. High Times’ Dan Skye and his staff did an amazing job moving and rescheduling as many events as possible. All the speaking events took place and the awards ceremony was standing room only.

I was able to introduce my new book, Greed and Evil. I did a book signing and sold out in a few hours. What was most gratifying was meeting people from more than a dozen countries who are now using my TV show, Should Grandma Smoke Pot?, to educate seniors throughout Europe, Africa and South America.

LB: You worked long hours and invested quite a bit of personal capital into the Proposition 2 campaign in 2014. How are you staying motivated after the loss at the polls?

RP: Amendment 2 got 58% of the vote. Lawmakers here know for fact certain that if we have to put it on the 2016 ballot, it will get the necessary 60%. That is why they are now open to passing a bill in the legislature this year. If we can make a really big show in Tallahassee on Feb. 10th, we should be able to get real medical marijuana for Florida patients this year.

LB: Do you have any advice for aspiring activists who want to make a difference in their own state, city or nation?

RP:My pet problem with virtually every activist organization is the fact that not one of them has a real outreach (program) to educate the voting public. They have no idea of how to use the commercial media to change the minds of the millions of voters who have no access to information we take for granted. That’s why I founded the Silver Tour. We use TV, radio and commercial print media to get the facts out to seniors and the general public. The Silver Tour is a tax exempt educational 501 c3. All donations are deductible and are used to buy media time for our educational shows and messages.

Today, when I am asked to speak at activist meetings, I teach them the basics of using the commercial media that will reach non-activists. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are great for informing other activists, but a waste of time and energy if you want to educate the general public.

LB: If cannabis were legalized federally tomorrow, what would you do?

RP:When we end cannabis prohibition, I will look for a good paying job running or representing a first class company in our industry. Actually I’ve been looking for a while. I’ve received offers, but most are from companies that want to use my name to boost their dubious operations. Many turned out to be pump and dump public stock schemes.


For previous interviews published on Ladybud, click here.



Photo Credit: Robert Platshorn