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Oct. 26, 1989 - Black Thursday: Launch of Operation Green Merchant

This Day in Cannabis History:

It was exactly 32 years ago today that the DEA raided dozens of horticultural supply stores across 46 states and arrested over 100 people—a day of infamy in the cannabis community that became known as "Black Thursday."

The basis for these raids was a statute added to the Controlled Substances Act in the early 1980s that allowed for certain grow equipment to be classified as drug paraphernalia alongside bongs and pipes, provided that they were “intended” to be used to manufacture an illegal substance (marijuana). To establish that illicit intent, the DEA had conducted a two-year-long entrapment scheme codenamed Operation Green Merchant.

Starting in late '87, the DEA began sending undercover agents to dozens of grow stores—particularly, those who advertised in Sinsemilla Tips and High Times magazines—and asked workers there for information about growing marijuana. Aware of this possible legal jeopardy, most shop owners gave explicit instructions to never discuss marijuana in their stores for any reason, and even to eject any customers who spoke of it. Unfortunately, employees at some shops failed to heed that warning...and those interactions provided the DEA with the legal justification needed to secure wiretaps, subpoena shipping records from UPS, and confiscate millions in merchandise—regardless of whether or not the shop owners were ever charged with a crime.

Of course, Operation Green Merchant didn’t end after the busts of Black Thursday—the investigation soon expanded, attempting to link the shop owners in a criminal conspiracy with a prominent seed company in the Netherlands and the marijuana mags in which they all advertised...but that's a story for another day.

For more about Sinsemilla Tips and Operation Green Merchant, listen to Episode 16 of the Cannthropology potcast below or wherever you get your podcasts.


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