1975 brought us:
President: Gerald R. Ford
Cost of first-class stamp: $.10
Quart of milk: $.46; loaf of bread: $.33
Mood Rings, Rubik’s Cubes, Pet Rocks are fads.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Jaws,” “Nashville.” “Dog Day Afternoon.”
“Saturday Night Live” premieres on NBC; George Carlin hosts the first show.
Home videotape systems (VCRs) are developed in Japan by Sony (Betamax) and Matsushita (VHS).
Computer hobbyists Stephen Wozniak and Steven Jobs begin working on computer designs. Together they develop the Apple 1 prototype.
Microsoft is born.
Vietnam War ends.
…And California laws are enacted stating that being in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is no longer a Felony. It is now a Misdemeanor. Guilty parties can expect to be fined, similar to traffic violators instead of imprisoned.
Back then the recreational pot smoker did not have access to the managed dispensaries we see today. Also the potency of the product was nowhere near the potency of the refined cannabis now being sold.
Marijuana was usually sold in “lids,” street slang for your plastic sandwich baggie containing one ounce of pot, which often included seeds and stems.
Since I, as author, cannot tell a lie, I will reveal that the crew at Gelb Music was known to sample marijuana from time to time. Yes, dear ones, it is so. However, they did not degenerate into “reefer madness” as depicted in scare movies. They kept a good humor and conducted their affairs with no serious impairment.
The better grade of pot was from the unblossomed buds of the female cannabis sativa plant. These buds tended to have quite a few seeds in them. A common method of separating the smokable pot from the seeds was to use an inverted Frisbee as a dish. The dried plant material was crumbled in the fingers into the Frisbee which was then held at about a thirty degree angle. The cardboard edge of cigarette paper packaging would be passed through the stuff in a gentle, upward sweeping motion and the seeds, round and a little bigger than BB’s, would roll to the bottom edge of the disk for easy removal. A learned skill. From this operation one got the material used to roll into a “joint,” sometimes called a “doobie.”
Now just tuck that information away for a moment while I tell you a story…
Thar I wuz…
Gelb Music, in those days, had a simpler burglar alarm system. It involved lead foil tape applied to the windows and door glass. This material was getting worn to the point that sometimes the smallest glitch could set it off and, one day in midsummer of 1975 it indeed went off.
The routine was that since I lived closest, less than two blocks from the store, I was the guy who met the cops at the door. I would open the door and shut off the alarm. That was usually it. Any police department will tell you most merchant burglar alarms are false alarms so in most cases they let me look around to see if any merchandise had been disturbed. Since I never saw any evidence of forced entry they would just go on their way and we put off (again) having the alarm system thoroughly tested and upgraded or repaired.
Except this one particular day.
The alarm went off. It was around sunrise, way before we were scheduled to open. I went down to the store and the cops on duty were not the guys I usually knew, but they were friendly enough. I used my key to kill the alarm and we went inside. I started to go to give a quick look around when one of the officers said, “Please stand there, sir, and let us check the premises to be sure it’s clear.”
No problem, really, because I pretty much knew there were no Bad Guys lurking.
In those days there were two teaching booths in the front of the store. Each one had room for two chairs, a small guitar amp, music stand etc.
One of the cops went into the front booth and was in there a little longer than I liked.
Sure enough, he comes out holding a bright yellow Frisbee, and in the Frisbee is a plastic sandwich bag about half full of marijuana, and a package of Zig Zag rolling paper.
“What’s this?” he asked me.
“Offhand I would say that it is marijuana,” I replied.
“Is it yours?”
“Do you own the store?” he asked.
“No sir I do not.”
“Please call the owner and have him come down here.”
At the time I think Kevin lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains and would be hard pressed to make the trip. Henry lived in Redwood City at the time so it was Henry I called.
His wife, Carol, answered the phone. I had clearly awakened her. I said “I need to talk to Henry.”
“Okay,” she said, and hung up. (Oboy!)
I redialed. She answered again. “I need to talk to Henry Now.”
That worked and Henry got on the phone and I told him the police were here and had questions about things found in the teaching booth.
“I’ll be right down,” he said. And he was.
I told the cops Henry was on his way. While we were waiting they read me my Miranda rights and I opted for the ‘remain silent’ clause and picked up a nearby acoustic guitar. I can’t say for sure what I played but I seem to remember it might have been “Goin’ Down This Road Feelin’ Bad.”
Henry arrived, identified himself as one of the owners and once again, the offending Frisbee was held up for inspection. “What’s this?” the officer asked.
“Offhand, I’d say it’s marijuana,” said Henry
“Whose is it?” asked the officer.
“That’s mine,” Henry said, using the same tone of voice as if he was acknowledging ownership of a pack of cards, a pen or other inconsequential item.
By this time, two more cops had come in and they were all looking around. One was behind the counter and I noticed he had a small box in his hand and was writing on the box.
One of the new cops asked, “What do we have here?”
The one doing most of the talking said, “Pot possession.”
And the cop behind the counter added “And hash.”
Henry and I both swung our heads around and said in one voice “Hash? What hash?”
The cop held up a small cardboard box that contained…. incense. It was a particular brand we liked that gave off a woodsy aroma. The cop had been writing the day’s date on the box preparatory to putting it into an “evidence bag” because hashish was not a misdemeanor. Possession of hashish was definitely a felony.
Everybody, cops and culprits alike, had a good chuckle at the diligent cop’s expense. Still, they had to process the bust and they were a little unsure exactly what to do since the new law cited earlier in this write-up had only been in effect for about two weeks. So they loaded Henry into a squad car (no handcuffs) and took him downtown.
Henry was returned in a reasonably short time. Kevin had arrived by then and we were waiting for The Story.
Turns out, the police were really in a quandary. They didn’t have a scale on premises to weigh contraband drugs. So they hemmed and hawed and eventually found a way to write him up and fine him.
As they were taking him back to the car to return him to the store one of the cops remarked, “Y’know, you’re the first person we’ve processed under that new law.”
And Henry dryly made a nice play on words…
“That was a doobie-ous honor.”
It went right over their heads…