Believe it or not, Randy Lanier, the 1980’s racing phenom who was seemingly destined for super-stardom was actually behind one of the biggest known cannabis smuggling operations in the states. As a young man growing up in the drug infused culture of South Florida during the 1960’s & 70’s, Lanier bought in to the pervasive hippie scene and went against his parents wishes by leaving for Canada where he soon embarked on what would be the beginning of his trafficking empire. As stoner stories go, Randy Lanier has one of the craziest.

Returning to South Florida after some early success, Randy Lanier began investing his earnings into growing his enterprise by purchasing speedboats for smuggling the product, safehouses for storage and taking on partners to facilitate his efforts. According to his wife, Pam, Lanier was loving the “fast money” and would soon expand his marijuana smuggling operation significantly. Set up with a direct connection for purchasing the increasingly popular strain of marijuana called “Colombian Gold” by his high school friend and fellow dealer, Ben Kramer, Lanier purchased a large fishing vessel that he would use to smuggle thousands of pounds of cannabis.

When the thousands of pounds of marijuana started to become tens of thousands and then hundreds, Lanier and his wife began to live the good life with a mansion and luxury cars. This also lead to his intense interest in racing after taking a class in 1978. Soon after, he purchased his own race car and began competing in the local circuits. When an opportunity arose for him to participate in the Daytona race in 1982, he jumped on the chance and managed to impress quite a few influencers. He would later be invited to some of the most prestigious and difficult races of the time, including the world famous Indy 500. While he placed 9th at the end, his performance earned him the race’s Rookie Of The Year award. By this point, Lanier was ready to retire from his smuggling days and focus on racing, but this was not to be.

Taking It To The Limit And Beyond: Randy Lanier's Story
Lanier in 1986. AP

The wind came one warm winter morning in Miami. Lanier stopped at a deli to order a bagel. His wife, Pam, a spirited Floridian with a mane of curly brown hair, had just given birth to the couple’s second child at a nearby hospital, and he planned to pick them up later. Waiting for his breakfast, Lanier glanced at the television behind the counter. He recognized the tall gates guarding his own home outside Fort Lauderdale. A news crew was live-reporting from the street; police in tactical gear milled about in the background. At the hospital, the phone in Pam’s room rang. Agents from the DEA and FBI were at the house, the baby sitter watching their daughter warned, with a warrant for her husband’s arrest. Lanier hurried to a pay phone and called his wife. “I’m leaving,” he told her. “I’m not coming to get you.”

As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.” Despite the precautions, the planning and funds, Randy’s luck finally ran out. After fleeing to Europe when being pursued by the U.S. authorities, some unfortunate strokes of poor luck allowed his past to catch up with him while hiding out in Antigua.

At the dock, Lanier sprinted away. He was barefoot and wearing only swim trunks, and as he scrambled up a tall hill covered in spiky palmettos his feet began to bleed. Behind him, a convoy of jeeps roared down the road. Lanier clawed his way higher. Below, soldiers jumped from the jeeps and aimed rifles at him. Lanier looked up. He was near the top – so close. “Stop!” they yelled. “We will shoot.” He stopped. Slowly, Lanier limped back down the hill in his baggy shorts.

Randy Lanier was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole along with his accomplices. Despite this, Lanier’s fiery spirit kept plans for escape in the forefront of his mind until he was ultimately moved to a maximum security prison and placed in solitary confinement. However, Lanier’s lawyers were able to use a legal precedent set by one of his former associates to secure his release after 27 long years. Today, the former hotshot driver and marijuana smuggling kingpin lives life at a far slower pace as a weekend racing instructor at the Homestead-Miami Speedway where he is barely recognized by modern enthusiasts. In what can be taken as a metaphor for Randy Lanier’s life in the fast lane, the man himself says that “Once the balance of the car is upset, you lose time.”

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Taking It To The Limit And Beyond: Randy Lanier's Story
Lanier now teaches private racing lessons in Miami. Jason Henry for Rolling Stone


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