Legendary Pot Smuggler Robert Platshorn Dies in Florida

Bob Platshorn (1943-2023) at far left with the Black Tuna Gang and more recently in Florida.

Weed smuggler extraordinaire Robert Platshorn has passed away. Known as Bobby Tuna for his exploits on the "high seas," he was 79. He spent the last week in hospice care after a brief hospitalization from an unknown ailment.

Born on Nov. 11, 1943 in Philadelphia, Platshorn found his calling importing marijuana from Colombia in the '70s. The Black Tuna Gang name was DEA code for his team. They moved a hot strain, Santa Marta Gold, that made them rich. Based in Miami Beach, Platshorn owned numerous cover businesses and several yachts.

But the high times ended when the DEA busted the Black Tuna Gang in 1978, charging them with smuggling 500 tons into the U.S. from 1977-1978. It was major coup for the DEA.

After two trials, Platshorn, his partner Robert Meinster and six other members of the gang were convicted. Platshorn and Meinster received sentences totalling 108 years. Platshorn served 28 years in federal penitentiaries and was finally released 15 years before the date of his death - on April Fool's Day in 2008.

Bob hit the ground running, meeting all the activists and starting his own organization, the Senior Tour, which reached older Americans who were interested in cannabis. Bob loved High Times, who did a cover story on the gang in 1981; I met him then and we became friends. 

Bob Platshorn found his calling importing marijuana from Colombia in the '70s.

Bob wrote Black Tuna Diaries and was featured in the documentary Square Grouper.

In 2019, he struck a deal with Trulieve to grow his custom Black Tuna strains. Since Bob lived in Florida, Trulieve's home state, he thought they'd be a good partner.

"Trulieve very generously supported our Silver Tour for two years," Bob wrote at CelebStoner in 2020. "I opted for Trulieve because they put a high value on education.

The Black Tuna strain had to "at least mimic the properties of Santa Marta Gold," he noted. "Within a few months I received a Mason jar [from Trulieve] with three huge buds. Two tokes and I knew we had struck Santa Marta Gold. It took several more months to grow mother plants and then a crop. Black Tuna strain was released in September 2020. It sold out in less than an hour. It’s Trulieve's the most in-demand strain and usually sells out in an hour or two."

That was Bob, a hype man to the end. He liked to tell stories about how he used to set up on street corners in Philadelphia and sell blenders and other household items like a Wild West barker hustling rubes. But Bob was too kind to take advantage. Shrewd from so many years in lockup, he was one oif the good guys who paid a heavy price because he loved providing Americans with great ganja back when the options were limited. For Bob, it was a seller's market until the DEA sniffed him out.

Smugglers like Bob Platshorn were like clandestine growers. They stayed in the shadows and got everyone stoned.

The Sept. 1981 cover featured Bob Platshorn and the Black Tuna Gang.



David Bienenstock, former editor of High Times, tells CelebStoner: "Bobby came out of prison ready to fight back against the War on Drugs that cost him decades of his freedom. But he also wanted to enjoy life and reconnect with his family and the world. The countless people he befriended with his charm, his stories, his kindness and his tireless activism know that he made a real difference in the world and had a damn good time doing it."

Bruce Perlowin, former smuggler, via FB: "An untiring activist and advocate to free the marijuana prisoners and make medical marijuana legal which he successfully did with the Silver Tour in Florida, he's at peace now. Goodbye my friend, you were/are admired, respected, and loved by so many."

Chris Goldstein, NORML organizer in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware: "Bobby was an incredible human, a dedicated reform activist and a dear friend. We met just days after his release from federal prison at the 2008 NORML conference in San Francisco. Bobby survived three decades in jail and then used that experience to inspire so many Americans to end cannabis prohibition."


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.