What to do with $175,000 in weed found in your back yard
I am standing chest-deep in a dank, muddy concrete-lined hole in Silver Lake, staring eye-level into a duffel bag full of high-grade drugs.
It smells strongly of marijuana - despite the fact that someone sealed it tightly into jars, Ziplocs and professionally vacuum-sealed pouches before THEY HID IT IN MY BACK YARD.
I am starting to panic.
I already did the full Tex-Avery-wolf AOOOOGAH! upon discovering the mammoth sackful of dope - estimated to be worth somewhere north of $175,000. My jaw already dropped. My eyes already bugged out. Now my heart is thumping my gullet. Breathing is getting iffy.
I try to speak. I think my exact words to the solar-panel technician standing equally open-mouthed next to me are something to the effect of “Holy. Fucking. SHIT!”
Now, the thought is crossing my mind - just for a second - “Wow, this could totally cure the cash pinch of launching my startup (the worldwide mobile photo game SNAPCIOUS) next month.”
The next thought to torch my overloaded brain is, Oh. My. God. Someone’s coming back for this.
But I’m getting ahead of myself …
Last June, we signed a contract to have solar panels installed on our house in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles.
We have a big, flat, south-facing roof, and we’ve been wanting to shrink our carbon load on the planet’s fucked-up atmosphere, so we looked into and found a good deal:
Thanks to federal and state rebates and a clever leasing scheme, Sungevity offered to install the system at a net cost to us of Absolutely Free.
We signed up, and after a few weeks’ construction in June (and many months of legal/inspection/retrofitting nonsense whilst chasing permits from the city and LADWP) the system is finally ready this week.
LADWP just needs a final accounting of all our electrical appliances so they can calculate our power load for billing purposes, and after that - solar energy will be ours.
I leave the office to meet the Sungevity tech at my home at noon.
We go inside from room to room - with him taking notes and photos of everything from the back of our fridge to the beefy electric motor on the radial-arm saw I found on eBay for 40 bucks.
I tell him about the big old in-ground hot tub installed in the back yard by the previous owners, who were high-living rock and roll promoters.
So we head out there, and I pull the thick teak hatches off the underground access vault - which I had closed up just a month earlier after draining and refilling the tub.
And this is what I see where there should be nothing but mud, ants and dead leaves: a shitty army-green duffel bag.
Uh-oh. I’ve seen this movie before.
I hop down inside the vault and haul it out - It’s wet from the morning’s rain, but not especially heavy - maybe 20 pounds. “What … the … ?”
“What?” He’s getting ready to jump into the vault to read the power-rating sticker on the side of the tub.
“This … this isn’t mine,” I stammer, realizing how suspicious that sounds. I haul it up and put it on the drawn hatch.
“Who the hell could have put this here? The last time I was down here was 2 months ago to drain and refill the tub, and this wasn’t here.”
I undo the clip from the grommets on its soggy lips and open it.
And all I can do is stare and curse - a lot - and stare some more.
Thousands of dense little marijuana buds stare back at me, through industrial vacuum-sealed plastic, through thick Ziploc bags, through the crystal-argyle pattern of glass jelly-jars - all labeled in looping Sharpie letters with names like “Lemon Haze” and “Bubble Mix.”
“What is it?”
“It’s, um …” I venture.
I show him. “It’s dope, It’s a big bag of marijuana.”
I snap out of it. “Goddamn it! Shit! Who did this???”
I start reaching into the bag to see if there’s anything truly dangerous, like heroin or cash or guns - and then I realize I should *not* be touching it at all. I have to call the cops.
I can’t have this anywhere near my family, and I need professional advice on what to do when the drugs’ owner returns and finds the stash is gone.
I let the bag drop and immediately call 311. The City Hall non-emergency line’s phonebot chirps, “I’m sorry, but due to the high volume of calls at the moment, there will be a delay in answering your call. Please wait on the line, and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.”
God. My mind is racing, and all I can think is fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. Where did this COME FROM and WHY NOW?
I’m trying to deliver a massive month-long project with my dev team at work. On deadline. Today.
And some evil bastard has stuffed a bag of dope into a hole behind my house and turned my life into the backdrop of a James Ellroy noir. Any minute now, some neckless mook with steroidal shoulders and a bullet-shattered voicebox will stalk up behind and beat me bloody with his pearl-handled Desert Eagle .45.
“I do NOT have TIME FOR THIS!” I groan.
Hell with it. Only thing to do is get rid of as swiftly and legally as possible.
I call 911 - quickly explaining that it’s a non-emergency so I don’t tie up their line. They patch me through and eventually I reach a desk officer at LAPD.
“Yeah, I, uhhh, I just discovered a large cache of drugs that someone stashed on my property. Can you send someone out to pick it up?”
The dispatcher says they’re really busy, but they’ll send someone as soon as they can. She takes my particulars, and a full description of the bag, and I go back to waiting and fuming.
“You mind if I go ahead?”
I whip around. “What???”
The solar guy. He points at the vault. I’m suffering tunnel vision now. I wave him on. “Sorry, man, be my guest. Watch out for that bracket there.”
While he hops down into the vault, grabs his photos and takes his notes, I wrack my brain.
Who the hell has come onto my property, where I play with my kids, and stashed their drugs? Why? What else is in that bag?
I start doing math from my crime-reporter days: Let’s see, an eighth of pot probably goes for $75, times eight is $600, times 16 ounces in a pound is - god, um - $9600, plus what I’m praying is hashish and not heroin in there, which is probably more expensive, times what feels like 20 pounds, minus the weight of the jars and the bag …
The solar guy makes his farewells, and I’m left to stew in my own juices. I run up to the street to look for the police cruiser, then hurry down to the back yard to gawk at the bag again.
It lies there reproachfully, a toxic fish beached on my patio. I cannot move it without proper equipment - the proper equipment being a police officer with legal authority.
I keep checking the street, and then anxiously re-checking the bag’s position on the hatch lid - as if the owner might appear when I weren’t looking, snatch it up and slip into the house to kick my ass, or worse.
The cops are busy, I tell myself. They’ll be here. They have crimes to stop, motorists to pull over, drunken domestic disputes to break up. They’ll be here.
After 90 minutes of this, I figure screw it, and I call the cops again.
“Hi, I called earlier to report that I found a stash of drugs on my property, about 90 minutes ago? You were going to send someone to remove it?”
“I”m sorry, sir, everyone in your district is out on an emergency. Could you drive it to the station yourself?”
I manage to avoid blowing up at her.
“Yeah, uhhh … I don’t think driving around with 20 pounds of drugs in my car is really a good idea.”
“Oh, sorry, sir, of course not. Well let me see if I can get someone at the desk. Please hang on.”
Another small eternity drips past. “Okay, we’ll be sending our supervisor out, no one else is available.”
Another 20 minutes pass.
What if they find the drugs gone, and they chuck a lawn chair through a window? What if they break in and burglarize the house while we’re gone? What if they invade while we’re home and assault us??? What if …
Enter Sgt. Adrienne Legaspi.
She calls from the front steps. “Hello?”
Phewf. I lead her down to the back yard.
“So, this is where I found it.”
I tell her the whole story - she lifts the bag and dumps it onto the pavers.
“Hunh - well, very professional-looking. Everything’s been sealed up and labeled.”
I notice now that it’s *all* cannabis - bag upon bag of vacuum-sealed weed and fragmented, chipped up bags of what looks like rabbit turds but what she confirms is likely hashish.
No guns, much to my relief - nor cash, nor heavier, more-potent drugs like heroin, or coke, or roofies or bath salts that would likely point to a Tarantinoesque denouement full of chewy dialogue and pointy knives.
“I don’t know how this got here - I was down in the vault a couple months ago when I drained and refilled the tub, and it wasn’t there.”
“Do you ever post to Facebook when you go out of town?”
“I try not to, but I might have posted a photo from the Grand Canyon over Thanksgiving.”
“Uh-huh. There you go”
Memo to self. Don’t do that again. Chowderhead.
“I mean, who would do this? Why here, of all places?”
“I don’t know sir, but I’m going to guess it was someone who either knows you or knows the property … someone close to you. Are any of the neighbors …”
“No, no, they’re good folks, family types. The ones on this side we’ve known for years, and the ones on the other side, they just moved in, they have two young kids, one’s a baby just five months old, they just don’t seem the type.”
She starts counting and inventorying out loud. ” … 43, 44, 45…” She counts 55 items, including 6 mason jars. She emails later to correct herself - the Property Room found a bundle of smaller packages in a larger package, and they changed total tally to 61 items, including the duffel bag.
“I’m kinda worried about the person who put it here coming back to pick it up. Is there anything I can do?”
We discuss security around the house - I’m calmed down considerably now - and we generally resolve that the best thing is to make it immediately obvious the stash has been uncovered.
“If there’s any way you could paint these hatches, or leave them aside so someone could see right away that this was discovered …”
“No, I don’t really want to paint ‘em, and I’d like to close them - I don’t want the kids or the gardeners to fall into the vault.”
“We could come back and put up crime-scene tape?”
“No, I think that’s a little much. I just want to leave kind of a fuck-off message so no one ever …”
“No, sir, you don’t want to do anything that might threaten them.”
Finally, she suggests posting the LAPD confiscated-property receipt by the hot-tub.
“I don’t have the paperwork here, but I’ll have one of my officers drop it by in your mailbox later. And we’ll keep an eye on the place.”
I thank her profusely, and see her up to the cruiser.
She tosses the bag in the trunk and takes off. “Thanks for calling us about this, sir. You have a good day.”
I rush back to my desk, and Photoshop up a little 8x10 poster with the photo of her inventorying the stash, and the message: “We found it and called LAPD. They confiscated it and now are watching the place. Sorry.”
I sheathe it in Saran Wrap against the weather, close the hatches, and thumbtack the message to the wood.
And I head back to work, wondering what will happen when the owner returns. I can only hope he/she’ll bug out, seeing nothing left for them here but LAPD scrutiny. And I keep running scenarios behind my eyes:
Neighborhood kid gets way in over his head?
Gardener’s brother parks it while waiting for a buyer?
Spooked grower en route to the dispensary without his permit papers panics and ditches his wares till everything blows over?
Humboldt County mule shovels out her car long enough to see her boyfriend down the street, before loading up and driving on to meet her connection?
The LAPD knows everything I know at this point. It’s anybody’s movie from here.