Mary Jane Girl

Page 5 of 6

By 1980, the bloom was definitely off the bud. Move over, Alice B. Toklas; here comes Scarface.

And for that, one of Bohling's buddies blames a spiraling chain of events triggered by the Mexican government's efforts to quash pot smuggling in the late '70s by spraying the country's marijuana fields with paraquat, a toxic herbicide.

"When the paraquat came in, the pot traffic from Mexico came to a complete stop," says a one-time member of Bohling's smuggling team. "That's when the Colombians moved in and the price of pot went from $55 a pound to $350, $450, finally all the way up to an all-time high for then of $800 a pound. Then they started smuggling cocaine in, too, and suddenly the whole business changed. People started packing guns; people were doing too much cocaine and becoming paranoid. People were wigging out and doing things they shouldn't do. That's when the old-timers like me decided it was time to retire."

As many pot historians have noted, the spraying of Mexican fields backfired, introducing smokers to a Colombia's higher grade of marijuana and conditioning them to pay steeper prices for weed, which turned out to be a status symbol in some circles.

Unwilling and unable to compete with organized crime cartels and a business that was now completely foreign to her, Bohling reportedly took her leave from the dope trade.

Although Christie Bohling had been out of the trenches for years by the time President Ronald Reagan and his wife launched their anti-drug blitzkrieg in the 1980s, her reputation came back to haunt her when she was one of 23 people named in a 24-count conspiracy to distribute 18,000 pounds of marijuana smuggled in from Mexico. By the time the case was over (Bohling was one of only five defendants who were actually tried), a jury found Bohling guilty of the smuggling charge, as well as of possession 100 pounds of marijuana and two counts of possession of half an ounce of cocaine.

In the appeal, which dragged on for two years, Bohling's attorney, Walter Nash, argued that the entire case was a "dry conspiracy": "They never seized a pound of pot," Nash told New Times in 1985. "It was totally dependent on an informant's word."

Despite a jury verdict, which could have meant a two-year prison stretch for Bohling, the judge ultimately gave her credit for "time served" awaiting trial; as a result, Bohling spent less than three months behind bars.

One might assume that this incident, along with a social climate far different from that of the '60s, would have seriously dampened the torch Bohling carried for her beloved bud.

One would be wrong. Instead, the mainstreaming of marijuana (currently a guilty pleasure of everyone from professionals to skate punks, the bud has long been stripped of any mystical trapping ) only fueled the flame in her belly. By the early '90s, Bohling was at the forefront of the national hemp movement, trumpeting the use of marijuana by-products in everything from clothing and beauty aids to surf boards and hack-sacks.

Thanks to her efforts in helping to organize the world's first hemp commerce convention, held at the Hermosa Inn in the 1990s, Bohling was subsequently named by High Times magazine as one of the "25 Living Legends of Pot," an honor she shared with such outspoken pot proponents as Woody Harrelson, Tommy Chong and Willie Nelson.

While others began to fight to use the marijuana plant in medicinal pain management, Christie Bohling was busy fighting to exploit its industrial use. A THC-free version of the plant used in rope manufacturing, hemp had almost been a cash crop for Thomas Jefferson and was the material used in the first pair of Levi's.

In what may be viewed as an effort to recapture her glory days, Bohling and Lange opened CHA! (Coalition of Hemp Activists), an all-hemp boutique on Scottsdale's Fifth Avenue in the mid-'90s. Despite Bohling's enthusiasm for better living through pot, non-smokable hemp was a tough sell -- and infighting within the ranks of largely inexperienced suppliers didn't make things any easier. After floundering for two years, the shop closed.

"The hempsters pissed Christie off," says Patrick Lange. "We dumped so much money into the cause, and then to have to listen to all that whining and complaining, it just wasn't worth it. But Christie had set out to make hemp a household word and she accomplished that."

Hemp behind her, Bohling tackled her last frontier: the untamed world of on-line auctions.

"E-bay used to be a lot more fun before they started passing all these rules about what you could or couldn't sell," says Lange, explaining that, for the past several years, he and Bohling had made ends meet by buying items at yard sales that they'd resell over the Internet.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dewey Webb