I’m not from Charleston, South Carolina. But I lived there in the late 1980s and spent Hurricane Hugo huddled with others in my former kitchen house on Charlotte Street, wondering if the roof and the rest of the home would survive the biggest storm I’d ever lived through. This experience would go on to serve as more than a metaphor for the rest of my life. Big storms followed by the loss of everything I worked hard to achieve and accomplish. Gone with the tides, just like the little story I want to recount here. In simple terms…
I am very lucky to have friends who are from Charleston. In this case, born and raised. My friend Witt Rabon is that Charlestonian (the name for someone born there, unlike myself- a Yankee Carpetbagger…) Through the guidance and friendship of Witt, he introduced me to a couple of gentlemen who look like they stepped out of a mid-1970s rock and roll band. Friends of his, Thomas Cutler and Barry Foy, are on the cusp of great success within the very business that got Barry removed from civilization for ten years. Unfair? Absolutely when you consider people convicted of major financial crimes would serve much less time behind bars. The Last Prisoner Project is their deep métier.
A calling is something you learned from experience, not just read in books. That alone gives authenticity and a little something called lagniappe. That little something extra. And what would that be?
Read on for the answers to these clues. Gentlemen Smugglers, it’s now their success story…
Warren Bobrow: Please tell me about yourself. Where are you from? How did you discover the plant? Do you have someone who introduced you to smoking in your family?
Barry Foy: My name is Barry Foy. I was born in Charleston, SC, but I’ve lived in many locations, from Canada to France to the Caribbean to NYC to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. I grew up in a conservative Catholic family; my dad was a banker, and my mother was a nurse. My first encounter with the plant was the summer of Woodstock in 1969, right after high school graduation, when I smoked a joint with my buddy. I was the first and basically the only cannabis user in my family. Man, I loved it right away and continued smoking through my first year of college. It didn’t take me long to realize the financial possibilities, and by the summer of 1970, I was selling pot from the back of a local bar in Columbia, SC, to the GIs at Fort Jackson basic training base before they were shipped off to Vietnam. Flash forward a dozen years, and I was running the East Coast, smuggling over 250 tons valued at close to $1 billion, which, of course, led to my crew becoming the main targets of Operation Jackpot, the first Presidential Sting in Reagan’s War on Drugs. I was eventually convicted under the Kingpin statute (§848) for running a continuing criminal enterprise smuggling marijuana and hashish into the US from Jamaica and Colombia. I served 11 years in prison from 1985-1996.
Warren Bobrow: Please tell me what you’re working on right now. For whom? Where? Do you focus on flower? Do you like indoor or outdoor grown cannabis?
Barry Foy: Currently, I’m working on building the Gentleman Smugglers cannabis brand with my team members Thomas Cutler, Kevin Harrison, and Gary Latham. We are based in Charleston, SC. At present, we are launching the brand in Massachusetts with our partner Root & Bloom, a state-of-the-art facility that handles cultivation, processing, packaging, and distribution. The last two years have been devoted to picking up where we left off – bringing the brand to the people and supplying premium product, only this time legally! My focus is on the flower because all products originate from the plant. Start with premium seeds and flower and you’re going to have a premium product in the end, whatever it may be. I personally prefer outdoor when available because organic soil and natural sunlight create a superior, flavorful product.
Warren Bobrow: What kind of obstacles do you face in your business? How do you anticipate removing them? What are your six and 12-month goals?
Barry Foy: As we all know, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. This places the burden on individual states to create regulations. This variation in laws from state to state causes obvious complications. It looks like the US Congress is close to passing legislation in 2023 that will clear up the ambiguity caused by these state-level differences. Having said that, we have an authentic story to tell, and I think it will resonate. Our six-month goal is to establish the Gentlemen Smugglers brand of premium flower and pre-rolls in the Massachusetts market. Within 12 months, we hope to launch the brand in New York and New Jersey and expand the product line into edibles, vapable concentrates, and beverages.
Warren Bobrow: What is your favorite cuisine or restaurant? Do you cook? What’s your favorite thing to prepare? Why?
I have always enjoyed fine cuisine and have a special place in my heart for the Southern specialty known as Shrimp and Grits. After spending a decade in prison and having friends who never made it out, I really savor a good meal. I love food and, having owned a restaurant in Charleston, can serve it up with the best of them! Using fresh local shrimp, heads off, I sauté them with butter and garlic for no more than one minute. The grits need to be stoned ground yellow grits cooked slowly with water and butter and finished with heavy cream. Serve the shrimp atop the grits with a side of sliced and chilled Johns Island tomatoes with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Pair this with a Belle Glos Clark and Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir. Bon Appetit!
Warren Bobrow: What is your passion?
Barry Foy: My passion is and has remained the same for 40-plus years: to bring premium cannabis products to the masses. From the Blue Mountains of Jamaica to the Sierra Madres in Colombia, South America, I’ve always taken the high road and gone the extra mile to find and procure the best cannabis. As we developed the Gentlemen Smugglers brand, it was important to lean into the legacy of what I did so many years ago – to that end, our first Sativa-leaning treat is called High Tide, and our first Indica-leaning delight is called Low Tide, so named because the tides were crucial to smuggling. On a personal level, it’s critical to give back, and we recently partnered with the Last Prisoner Project to support ending needless incarceration for nonviolent marijuana crimes. Down the line, I want to develop specific Gentlemen Smugglers cultivars but for right now, I’m all about working with the best partners in the business to help our friends out there enjoy great flower. And you can always count on me to deliver.