If you smoked Colombian weed in the 1970s and 1980s, I owe you a thank-you card. You paid for my swim lessons, bought me my first baseball glove, and kept me in the best private school in south Florida, at least for a little while. My father, "Big" Tony Dokoupil, started a family the same year he graduated to loads of ten and twenty thousand pounds of marijuana, transported on freighters and tugboats from the northernmost point of Colombia to sailboats near the Virgin Islands, and ultimately to New York City wholesalers, vacation markets, and college towns along the East Coast. But he vanished when I was about ten, and for most of my adult life I had only scraps of information about my old man. Two decades later I found him, ruined and broke, and confronted the man who abandoned me and my mother to rule over the Golden Age of Weed. I tell those stories - his and mine - in my new book, THE LAST PIRATE, which came out this week.

PROOF: https://twitter.com/tonydokoupil/status/452115941992980480

EDIT: Thanks for your questions everyone!

Comments: 90 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

Havins22 karma

Has your exposure to the underground drug trade changed your opinion in anyway on the possibility of legalization or decriminalization?

tdokoupil34 karma

No, but my exposure to my old man's lunatic addicted side certainly has. I'm for setting the smoker free, and I can get behind the idea of allowing people to grow and deliver weed securely. But I hate the idea of a beer-industry style marketing machine rising up to drive us all to smoke. I don't mean that's gonna happen tomorrow, but the arc could head that way.

tdokoupil27 karma

Beer commercials run on vevo-hosted kids dance videoes these days. Drives me nuts.

-PeanutButt-15 karma

How does your father and you feel about the legalization in Colorado?

tdokoupil59 karma

He thinks he and his friends are the Rosa Parks of Weed and Colorado is their Civil Rights Bill.

MrNorthman10 karma

When in your life did you figure this information out? If he left when you were 10 did you have any idea why? How did you put the facts together to get this conclusion and ultimately find him two decades later?

tdokoupil41 karma

I didn't find out until I got his records from the National Archives. He was busted for a 35,000 pound job in 1986. My first call was to my mother. "We were going to tell you!" she said. "I'm almost 30" I said.

MrNorthman6 karma

Since you met with him did you learn any of the details to his operation? To move volume like that he must have really had help and was probably dealing with a lot of sketchy individuals. Was it a federal bust when he was finally brought down?

tdokoupil12 karma

Not sketchy dudes. My step-father. A good old friend. A series of pals. It was all college educated white dudes who owned woks and played guitar. The only danger they sense -- and probably exaggerated -- was on the Colombian end. Their scam was the scam of the decade: freighter or tug of dope from the Guijara Department, Colombia, transfer to sailboats in the Caribbean, and then drops along the east Coast. My father was the guy in the tall grass, the first American stateside to touch the plant.

Twinkie_Zombie7 karma


tdokoupil15 karma

Last time I smoked was Colorado in 2000, I think. World Bank protests shut down my college and I visited a friend and we had a great time. After that, well, life got a bit sideways and confused and weed wasn't part of my day. I don't smoke weed now, but I might if it makes it to the corner store.

lazyorjustefficient6 karma

Why did he vanish? Did you ever see/talk to him?

tdokoupil14 karma

He left because he couldn't retired from dealing, and sought thrills elsewhere. I went from millionaire to homeless man in a matter of months. When he was indicted the feds couldn't find him. They arrested everyone else, but they couldn't find my father, and for a simple reason: he was homeless, then living in squalor off Collins Ave.

JustinTimberbeach5 karma


tdokoupil10 karma

I was just a kid, but going to elementary school at Gulliver -- the school of du pont scions and Iglesias kids and Bush the Elder kids -- was in retrospect a lordy thing to have done. As for my father, well, he disinherited me one orgasm and one snort at a time. Drug lord till the end.

Likes_Everything3 karma

How big was he? I don't even know how to ask, but what do you mean by biggest?

tdokoupil7 karma

Just slightly taller than the opening to the Lincoln Tunnel. I remember he used to have to duck when he walked into it. 5'8.

Likes_Everything1 karma

Lol sorry I edited to an actual question! But thank you. That isn't that tall...

tdokoupil5 karma

Oh, I see the DEA credited the gang with "hundreds of thousands of pounds" and my father sold at least a 100,000 pounds personally. That's 50 tons. A gram per joint. A lot of joints. But see my answer below about biggest and these kinds of numbers. In the old days the distinction was do you deal tons or not? That's all that matters. The criminal code is the same: once you go over a ton you're all in the same class.

ADavidJohnson3 karma

How did the cannabis trade of that time compare to cocaine? Was it the same people and channels, or different because it had to be so much more bulk to be as valuable?

tdokoupil9 karma

Largely if not completely separate lines of import. My father would do cocaine -- he would do lines as long as I-95 -- but he refused to sell it, because he thought it was a soul killer. He was typical of major weed smugglers of the 70s and 80s: he believed in marijuana, believed it was right and good and to bring it in was to make the world better. So, for that reason, people like him steered clear of the Colombians. They thought the Colombians were low class. The one exception: the Mutiny Club. All the drug world washed into that joint.

zoomo963 karma

If your father was never busted by feds/DEA how did he lose the wealth he had amassed in the 80s to become homeless?

tdokoupil7 karma

Who said he was never busted? He was, in 1992, almost six years after "retiring," ie doing enough coke to replace flour in the world's largest cake and hiring naked strangers by the squad. That's where the money went. Bumps and humps.

hiimflair1 karma

did he stop buying things for you from age 10?

tdokoupil4 karma

Want to hear the crazy part? My step father turned on my father. They were partners. The New England Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force busted Willy Terry in Portugal, turned him, and Willy turned my step father, and it wrapped up Dad and more than a dozen other guys in three overlapping indictments. My family moved out of Miami when I was 10 -- to escape the potential repercussions.

jchabotte1 karma

Did the huge fall from wealth to poverty in such a short time span affect your spending habits as an adult? If so, in what ways?

tdokoupil6 karma

It made my hyper aware of class. I didn't know what happened but I knew we had nice things in Florida and not so nice things in Maryland, and that made me feel particularly stabbed any time someone treated me like the "poor" (it's all relative) kid in the rich area. As an adult I don't spend much on crap. I like clothes alright. But mostly I hate stuff.

Whatsaspace1 karma

Did you know your father was who he was a kid?

tdokoupil10 karma

Not even for a second. I got whiffs as a late teen, but could not believe the scale until I got the records and his friends started talking. I would email old partners of his -- find them online, easy -- and they replies would warm the heart. "I was wondering when I was going to hear from you." That kind of thing.

Pricee1 karma

Do you see any money from him?

tdokoupil5 karma

I mean, yes when I was a kid. But not shit since. My mom found one of his coolers...then lost it in rehab costs (for Dad) and a dumb investment in classic cars and slummy apartments.

blakeb431 karma

Have you always wanted to write? If not, what made you want to make this book about your dad? Obviously you have an interesting perspective, but was it more than just an oppurtunity to share the story?

tdokoupil3 karma

Dad knew how to bullshit and charm, and he believed any door could open with the right combination of words, and I picked up on the love of that challenge -- or else it was born into me somehow. Honestly, I feel like I have the same brain as him--the same crackle, just not the same outlet for it.

blakeb432 karma

any door could open with the right combination of words

I completely get what you're talking about, and that's a great way to describe it, thanks!

tdokoupil3 karma

The door to sales -- working on that one.

AlwaysGettingHopOns0 karma

How did you feel when it all came out? Can't imagine it's a good feeling...

tdokoupil3 karma

Well, actually. I thought he was an addict pure and simple. To discover he was a dealer -- and a dealer of pot -- was a feel good thrill by comparison. I mean, at least he had it together for a little while.

AlwaysGettingHopOns2 karma

Wow! Thanks for the response!

tdokoupil4 karma

Dude, thanks for the question. The view from the stage is all coughs and waitresses.

ben_yc0 karma

Who decided that he was the biggest? What was his monthly income?

tdokoupil3 karma

Good question. I didn't write the intro to this thing, my publisher did. But look: all claims about size are best guesses at best. They reflect the boasts of a dealer and a DEA agent and a prosecutor, and not one of those sources is fully trustworthy, right? So no one can ever know who the biggest was, not for certain.

One example: the DEA claimed that the Black Tuna Gang was the biggest of all time...until I scratched at the idiocy of all that.

My father's claim was to joining the biggest ring of the 80s, lead by a guy named Willy Terry, who smuggled by the ton for more than a decade. As Willy's main dealer in the early 1980s, well, that's the math.

But there were a lot of wild numbers put up in those days.

Perhaps by you?

ben_yc1 karma

Solid answer, definitely seem like you're being as forthright as possible. I'll probably read the book when it comes out. You should hit up 'Don Diva Magazine' they're always publishing pieces on the hustlers from the 80s.

I never put up any numbers, I didn't exist yet.

tdokoupil2 karma

Ha, thanks man. And I really appreciate you giving the book a chance. Took five years, four rewrites, all with day job and kids and the whole modern ordeal. I don't think scale makes this story special. Tons were coming in daily for decades. What I tried to do was capture the kind of character, now extinct, that did that kind of smuggling in the dark ages between Carter and now. Email me about Don Diva. Never heard of it before.

supersaiyan420-3 karma

Did your father's reputation ever result in any partiality against you/your family?

tdokoupil1 karma

What do you mean by partiality?