Mary Jane Girl

The life and high times of Phoenix cannabis crusader Christie Bohling

Although details about this curious chapter of Bohling's life are sketchy, the highlight of this what's-wrong-with-this-picture union was undoubtedly its dissolution. While preparing for an appearance in divorce court, a friend slipped Bohling something to calm her nerves. The pill? LSD.

Single and now viewing life through the eyes of the newly enlightened, Bohling tripped back to Phoenix with the idea of opening a hip dress shop like the boutiques she'd seen in Los Angeles. When the cost proved prohibitive, she figured she'd raise the money by operating a poster shop. Taking out a lease on a former hamburger joint at 2510 North Seventh Street, Bohling and a girlfriend repainted the building's exterior with traffic-stopping psychedelic swirls, stocked its shelves with $500 worth of posters, incense and rolling papers and hung out their shingle in July 1967.

The Liquid Giraffe was open for business.

Pioneering head shop owner Christie Bohling is hassled by the fuzz, 1967.
courtesy of Patrick Lange
Pioneering head shop owner Christie Bohling is hassled by the fuzz, 1967.
Christie Bohling as budding hemp entrepreneur, 1990s.
Malcolm MacKinnon
Christie Bohling as budding hemp entrepreneur, 1990s.

What that name meant is now anyone's guess; still, the giraffe allusion is apt. Although Bohling may not have realized it at the time, the proprietress of Phoenix's first head shop was really putting her neck on the line.

Interviewed by the Arizona Republic shortly after launching her business, Bohling enthused "We realized there was no such place in Phoenix, so we opened this shop. We want to turn the whole town on."

Accompanied by a photo of a bunch of teenagers in sunglasses and paisley prints sitting on the floor under a Jefferson Airplane poster, the full-page article ended with Bohling offering special thanks to Phoenix's finest.

"I would like to emphasize the cooperation we have had from the police," she stressed. "They have been very nice and we try to help them by enforcing the curfew for the younger kids who hang out here."

Just two months later, that cross-generational love fest was over.

"Fears of Hippies Leads to Arming" screamed an October 3 Phoenix Gazette headline over a story that claimed neighbors were taking up guns to defend themselves against the rowdy clientele at the Liquid Giraffe and two other nearby head shops, The Acid Vat and The Purple Bag.

"So many of us have been threatened and intimidated that the situation is moving toward open violence," one resident told a reporter. "These establishments have created a threat to the health and safety of the community at large."

Explaining that the hippies had "stolen lawn furniture, used our autos for petting, set off firecrackers [and] discarded beer and pop cans on the lawn," homeowners submitted a petition to have the shop closed as a public nuisance.

Clearly relishing her role as a rogue retailer (she now occasionally kept the store open 24 hours a day, with bands sometimes performing atop the roof), Bohling dismissed the prevailing lynch mob mentality as "the silliest thing I ever heard because that [hippie] won't do anything but throw a flower at you."

Such comments did little to endear Bohling to the cops, who reportedly began monitoring her every move. Driving home from the shop, she was regularly pulled over and ticketed for such picayune offenses as squeaky brakes and operating a car while barefooted. It was around this time that Bohling found a bag of marijuana that someone -- Bohling always suspected the cops -- had planted in her car. Enraged over being set up, she told the cops that if they didn't lay off, she was really going to flood the state with marijuana.

"It seems like I always had a file open on Christie," says Craig Mehrens, a longtime friend and attorney who represented her over the years. "One of my favorite stories about her involved a wiretap. On the wire [agents] hear her talking to this guy and she says 'Okay, I'll meet you in the Safeway parking lot and I'll give you the keys then.'"

Hearing the word the word "keys" -- bygone pot slang for "kilos" -- the agents automatically assumed a big drug deal was going down. In reality, says Mehrens, laughing, "the guy had simply left the keys to his car at her house the night before and she was returning them to him."

Somewhere along the line, Bohling became a key player in the Phoenix pot scene.

As near as can be determined, that was probably around 1969, when through a remarkably convoluted chain of post-Liquid Giraffe events, Bohling became stranded in Spain while managing a rock band. Living on her wiles (and the proceeds from the Saks Fifth Avenue blouses she peddled for 70 cents apiece), Bohling eventually pulled herself out of the hole by smuggling hashish from Tangiers to Hawaii several times.

Reliving several particularly hairy experiences (one of her favorite tales was about hashing out a dope deal in Morocco with knife-wielding "people who had probably never seen a white girl before"), Bohling told a New Times reporter in 1985, "I've been through so much shit, I can't believe it."

And if there hadn't been so many witnesses around to verify her fantastic tales, skeptics would have been well within their rights to dismiss Bohling's exploits with "and what was she smoking?"

Dumb question.

"Christie was the stereotypical good-hearted marijuana trafficker," says Walter Nash, a Tucson attorney who handled Bohling's 1985 conspiracy case. "The defendant that you'd see in the '60s would later become a big-time real estate broker or an investment banker -- they were really bright, well-educated people that just wanted the rush. Now it's much more hardcore and you'll find much more of what you'd define as 'real crime' involved than it was back then. That sort of business doesn't exist anymore."

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