‘Lumbian Mersh, Mexican Shake and Homegrown

‘Lumbian mersh’ (dealer-speak for Commercial Grade Colombia dope) started to hit US streets around 1973. Mersh was a big improvement over the harsh Mexican shake that defined the late 60s pot scene.  Nixon’s 1971 War on Drugs and Operation Intercept had disrupted the cross-border supply chain. Up until then you could usually get a lid (about an ounce) of passable weed for $10. But the cheap stuff got squeezed. As a result, smugglers turned to importing higher margin, more potent herb from Colombia via Florida.

Mersh was strong enough, lots of flower tops mixed in with the leaf, but usually quite seedy (up to 20% by weight) with stems. By the time consumers bought a lid of mersh in New Hampshire it would be dry and brownish and might even crumble into powder as you were rolling a doobie. Street prices in 1975  were around $20 to $30 an ounce, double the price of Mexican shake. Mersh was widely available, especially in college towns like Boulder, Madison or Austin.

Rule of thumb. If you pay $300 for a pound, you charge $30 per ounce and make a six ounce profit. Or if you cleaned out the seeds and were generous with your stash you could still earn a few dollars and make a lot of friends. Dealing was an easy way to stay loaded and keep a few coins in your pocket.

Domestic cannabis production was just starting to take off. Homegrown traditionally had a bad rep – think lots of leaf, stems and seeds – and was typically ‘headache material’. You had to smoke a lot to get a buzz. In rural Kansas, outside Platte City on County Road ‘H’, wild pot plants grew up to 12 ft tall. You could pick the tops and get $50 a pound in Milwaukee.

By 1975 switched-on hippies in Humboldt County, California and Josephine County, Oregon had perfected the art of Sinsemilla and were packaging the aromatic herb in glass jars for delivery, just like the moonshiners of old. But ‘sinse’ was hard to find outside of the region and very expensive…upwards of $100 an ounce.

No, in 1976, if you wanted to smoke the very best dope and have plenty of it you had to head south.

Published by Phil Parent

Phil Parent is a geographer residing in Queenstown New Zealand.

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