From the Archives: The Banana Boat Connection (1978)

in Culture

By Andy Rosenblatt

John West Thatcher is not your average, run-of-the-mill, depraved, weird, long-haired, hippie drug smuggler. For starters, Thatcher doesn’t drink, curse or smoke. Not even cigarettes. He’s a God-fearing, born-again Christian who eats lunch at his unpretentious desk, wets his hair and combs it straight back, works six days a week and goes to church on the seventh.

He’s also a Kiwanis Club member, Davidson College trustee, retired lieutenant colonel and chairman of the Miami chapter of Youth for Christ. With a cover like that, who would ever suspect that Thatcher is the number one cocaine importer in Florida, maybe in the nation—a distinction he earned without really trying. Or spending a day in jail.

John Thatcher’s business is bananas. Literally. He imports the yellow fruit from Colombia to Miami, 150 million oblong tropical delights each year. He also imports—inadvertently—a lot of cocaine, something Thatcher, a deacon of the Presbyterian Church, finds hard to explain. The nose candy comes in with the rest of Thatcher’s cargo on the three big banana boats he owns. Like Thatcher’s bananas, the coke comes in bunches. Sometimes 50 pounds, sometimes 150 pounds at a time.

What the railroad did for the American West, the banana boat is doing for Colombian cocaine. The connection is easy and efficient. In the last three years, well over a ton of coke has moved through it. Over 750 pounds has been wasted by Customs narcs who watch all banana boats that dock in Tampa or Miami. The top three seizures on the DEA all-time hit parade took place on banana boats. Together, the seizures account for one out of every eight pounds of coke the feds have put their hands on, an incredible $190-million payload of snow. For every pound that’ …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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