- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

John McCaslin, Inside the Beltway columnist for The Washington Times, reveals for the first time in his new nonfiction book, “Weed Man: The Remarkable Journey of Jimmy Divine” (Thomas Nelson), the amazing and often hilarious exploits of Jimmy Moree, a law-abiding citizen turned million-dollar drug trafficker, who amidst sometimes unbelievable circumstances risked life and limb to both make [-] and give away [-] a fortune. The book is due out Tuesday. Here is an excerpt surrounding a smuggling trip into Virginia [-] the farthest north his “business” had ever taken him. The proceeds were rumored to be supporting the Afghan rebels in their 1980s war against the Soviet invasion.

Jimmy Divine had seen blue his entire life - nothing but sky and water. Now, in the space of six days and nine hundred miles, everything was green - flora, fields, and forests. Giant, towering trees, unlike any he’d ever laid eyes on before.

He now understood why the English had chosen the lush banks of a river they christened the James to build their first permanent settlement in the Americas in 1607. They’d called it Jamestown.

President John Tyler also appreciated what he saw in the James, born fresh in Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, flowing brackish over Richmond’s cobblestones, and emptying salty into Chesapeake Bay. The rebellious tenth president of the United States, one of Virginia’s sons who’d helped organize the Southern Confederacy, was so enchanted with the broad and lazy river that before he’d finished his one term in the White House, he purchased a previously owned eighteenth century plantation and house along its tidal banks, renaming it Sherwood Forest after the president’s outlaw hero - Robin Hood - who robbed the rich to provide for the poor.

When Jimmy’s suspected CIA contact revealed the ultimate destination for the shipment of Asian hashish as being in the vicinity of Sherwood Forest, Jimmy smiled at the irony. Or was it serendipity - given the tens of thousands of dollars he had deposited in the cookie jars of the poor people in the Bahamas?

Three boats slid out of south Florida, the operative assuring the Bahamian that there would be sufficient manpower to offload both the mother ship - in this case an absolutely gorgeous 140-foot triple-mast sailing schooner that Jimmy assumed was owned if not captained by a wealthy Arabian.

Two hundred miles off the Virginia’s sparsely populated Eastern Shore, Jimmy’s larger trawler rendezvoused with the tall sailing ship. The trawler then hooked up with the two smaller boats twenty-five miles offshore - a weed line well outside U.S. territorial waters.

Way back in 1793, the United States had established a three-mile territorial limit that remained in the books until the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan cited national security concerns as a reason to increase territorial waters to a dozen miles. Still, for the first time ever since he began smuggling contraband, Jimmy wasn’t concerned about encountering federal law enforcement officials.

The way he figured it, he was now working for them for once. He was worried, however, about the local harbor police or Fish and Game officers going about their duties, like a surprise inspection, perhaps, of one of Jimmy’s three boats to make sure they were carrying sufficient life preservers or hadn’t fished above the limit.

Were that to happen, and the illegal cargo discovered, he knew that he and his crew would be the fall guys, CIA fingerprints or not. It wasn’t like the arresting officers were going to believe a Bahamian national, his bearded face concealed like a pirate’s behind a bandanna, baby-sitting a multimillion-dollar boatload of hashish, when he swore up and down on his mother’s grave that he was smuggling drugs on behalf of Uncle Sam.

Jimmy could hear himself attempting in his island accent: “Don’t worry, officers. Everything you see here is legitimate. This hashish is the property of the U.S. government, so go back to your fish counts and have a nice day.” He would be better off arguing that he was the pope.

It was agreed by all parties that the valuable shipment, its proceeds believed destined for U.S.-backed Afghan rebels fighting Russian invaders, would better be distributed onto three boats, as opposed to leaving the entire stash on the trawler. That way, if one of the boats got stopped and boarded by the authorities, the entire cargo of hashish would not be compromised - and there would be less chance of the drug scandal of the century unfolding in the press and sending shockwaves from Norfolk, Virginia, up the Potomac River, and into Washington.

“We decided that I would go in first,” Jimmy recalls. Soon, the channel markers brought him within sight of the massive Norfolk Navy Base, the largest military port in the world, with berths for seventy-five cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and aircraft carriers, their towering bridges and flight control decks visible for miles over the Bahamian’s left shoulder.

“I went right into the bay and right up the [James] river, no problems whatsoever,” Jimmy says. “The scenery was absolutely gorgeous - big trees on both sides of the river, and every so often a plantation house, like the pictures I saw in my school books. It was like going back in time.”

Soon, Jimmy passed the historic seaport of Claremont, home to only three hundred Virginians, where he cut back the throttle and allowed the trailing boats sufficient time to catch up with him.

Here his chart showed the winding river turning just about due north, then after a distance of ten or so miles, sharply southwest again. Where the riverbanks reach their farthest northern point and begin to bend south, one finds a thick stand of trees - for centuries named Sherwood Forest after the nearby plantation.

Jimmy was instructed to look for an ordinary post-and-plank dock, none too wide, with a white wooden bench at its deep end. If he didn’t see any geese - the plastic decoy kind - crowded on the bench, then there were unforeseen problems and he was to turn the three boats back downriver and await further instructions.

He eyed his waterproof watch, its dial glowing now beneath the twilight sky. He was right on schedule - one hour before sunset. With the other boats no more than thirty minutes in his wake, the contraband would all be unloaded by dusk.

He looked around him at the unfamiliar scenery, which all looked the same. Given the thick foliage that surrounded his boat, the Bahamian wasn’t accustomed to feeling so enclosed. Even when anchored off the distant coastline of Colombia, he had an entire sea at his back in which to retreat.

He peered through binoculars, spotted six geese-a-laying on the bench, and drifted in. Soon, Jimmy heard the familiar sound of sliding doors and glanced up to see a small army, maybe a dozen men, climbing out of four dark-colored vans - their exact color and make he couldn’t determine in the dwindling twilight. But they had every appearance of U.S. government property.

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