Square Grouper

Square Grouper

A 1983 Everglades City bust in SQUARE GROUPER, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Square Grouper (2011)

Also Known As: Square Grouper: Godfathers of Ganja

Opened: 04/15/2011 Limited

Theater Listin...04/15/2011
Cinema Village...04/15/2011 - 04/21/20117 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: Documentary

Rated: Unrated


In 1979, the US Customs Service reported that 87% of all marijuana seizures in the US were made in the South Florida area. Due to the region's 5,000 miles of coast and coastal waterways and close proximity to the Caribbean and Latin America, South Florida was a pot smuggler's paradise. In sharp contrast to the brazenly violent cocaine cowboys of the 1980's, Miami's marijuana smugglers were cooler, calmer, and for the most part, nonviolent. SQUARE GROUPER paints a vivid portrait of Miami's pot smuggling culture in the 1970s and 1980s through three of the city's most colorful stories.


Everglades City, a tiny fishing village 80 miles west of Miami, has always been outlaw country. The majority of the town's 500 residents are from five families, with almost everyone related in some way. The region's coastline is comprised of a vast labyrinth of mangroves known as the Ten Thousand Islands. The unique geography, coupled with the fact that only locals knew how to navigate it, made the town a picture-perfect location for smuggling. And folks in Everglades City smuggled their way through history. In the early 1900's, they smuggled endangered animals. During the prohibition era, they took to rum running. And when drugs flooded South Florida in the 70's and 80's and the National Park Service began to phase out commercial fishing, the mainstay of the Everglades City economy, folks took to marijuana smuggling.

The DEA decided they had to put a stop to the smuggling. They executed two large, highly publicized raids in 1983 and 1984, leading to the arrest of nearly 80% of the adult male population of Everglades City.

Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church: Ganja & God

In the early 1970s, a fundamentalist Christian sect known as the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church formed in Jamaica. The Coptics' beliefs were typical of any fundamentalist Christian organization...with the exception of one. The Church believed that marijuana (or "ganja," as they called it) was their sacrament...and all members, including children, smoked it around the clock. The Church started a massive marijuana export operation and expanded throughout the 70's, eventually becoming the largest employers and landowners in the struggling Caribbean nation.

In 1975, needing an "embassy" in the United States, the Church bought a mansion on Miami's exclusive Star Island. Initially, the Church received recognition as a legitimate religious organization by the government. But as the media caught wind of the group and their rather unorthodox religious ceremonies, things started to change. Ultimately, a 1979 60 Minutes piece featuring footage of young children puffing large "spliffs" of marijuana caused public outrage and compelled the government to finally put an end to the Coptic's. Soon after, many Church members were indicted and eventually convicted of smuggling large quantities of marijuana.


Robert Platshorn, author of Black Tuna Diaries and America's longest (30 yrs) imprisoned nonviolent marijuana offender. Raised on South St. in downtown Philadelphia, acting ambitions earned him a supporting role in a successful off Broadway play while still in high school. The same skill led to Robert becoming one of America's most famous pitchmen. The late Billy Mays called him "A legend in the pitch business." Seen for years on TV, at fairs, and shows selling Vita Mix, frozen food knives, and gadgets. Robert studied communications at University of Miami.

At twenty-four he moved to London to found Dynamic Reading Institutes. Starting with a rented classroom, within three years there were fourteen schools in three countries and his teachers giving classes at Oxford, Cambridge, London University and the House of Lords. On his return to the U.S he started the Ice Cream Factory. Using a unique pushcart he invented, he became the second largest distributor of Breyers ice cream.

He moved back to Miami in 1975 to attend Law School. Miami in the 70's was the center of the Colombian pot trade. Robert turned his business acumen to the mission of smuggling Colombian pot. Attorney general Griffin Bell named Robert's organization "the Black Tuna Gang" and alleged they were responsible for most of the marijuana crossing the Florida coast. In 1979, a year after quitting the smuggling business, he was indicted, convicted and sentenced to 64 years in federal prison. He was released in late 2008 after serving almost 30 years in eleven different prisons.

Robert lives in Florida with his wife Lynne. He works for Medical Marijuana, collecting signatures for a Florida ballot initiative sponsored by PUFMM and NORML. He has appeared at universities, concerts, benefits, expos and in the media to promote the cause, tell his story, and sign copies of his autobiography, Black Tuna Diaries (www.blacktunadiaries.com). His story was featured in three different editions of High Times, The New York Times, The Wall St Journal, Time, and other national media outlets. His writing has been seen in The New York Times, High Times and various publications.

"Bobby Tuna" will soon be featured in SQUARE GROUPER an exciting new documentary from rakontur, producers of Cocaine Cowboys, and the ESPN hit film, "The U."


Following the success of his controversial debut "Raw Deal: A Question of Consent," Miami native Billy Corben co-founded Rakontur productions with partner Alfred Spellman. He directed the worldwide hits Cocaine Cowboys and Cocaine Cowboys 2 and "The U" for ESPN. His latest work, SQUARE GROUPER explores Miami's pot smuggling culture.