August 26, 2021 – Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe is getting into the legal drug game.
The one-time teenage drug dealer who made headlines in the 1980s in Detroit for his flashy behavior and lightning-quick rise through the ranks, worked for the FBI at age 14 and went on to serve more prison time than any other non-violent juvenile offender in the history of the U.S. legal system, will soon be releasing his own cannabis brand called, “The 8th.”
Wershe’s newest business endeavor, complete with a merchandising branch, is being done in conjunction with the Pleasantrees Cannabis Company. The name of the brand is a reference to the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment and his own narcotics case which was prosecuted under the now-rescinded, incredibly draconian “650 Lifer Law,” sending first-time non-violent drug offenders to prison for the rest of their lives without the possibility of parole.
Wershe was recruited by the FBI straight out of the eighth grade and put to work as a mole infiltrating African-American drug organizations on the Motor City’s Eastside. He served 32 1/2 years in prison for a single cocaine-possession case he took at 17, drawing international recognition as a prisoner of war in America’s long-abandoned Reagan-era war on the crack game.
Today, 52, Wershe finally walked free in July 2020 from a Florida halfway house and returned to Michigan. Last month, attorneys for Wershe filed a $100,000,000 civil lawsuit against the FBI, the Detroit Police Department and the city of Detroit, claiming child abuse and endangerment. According to FBI pay receipts, Wershe was provided almost $50,000 in cash for his services from the summer of 1984 through the fall of 1986.
The parole on Wershe’s 1988 drug-conspiracy conviction and 2005 auto-theft conspiracy conviction lapsed earlier this week. For the past year, he’s been working as an advocate for prison reform and prisoners’ rights groups and meeting with local politicians and judges to try to effect change in sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders.
Back in the 1980s, he was a genuine phenomenon in the local and national press, dressing flashy, wearing a lot of gaudy jewelry and sitting courtside at Detroit Pistons NBA games held at the old Pontiac Silverdome. Popular television cop dramas of the era, Miami Vice and 21 Jump Street, featured story arcs inspired by Wershe’s exploits in Detroit.
Kid Rock and Eminem, Detroit’s biggest-selling music acts of the last half-century, were both fascinated by Wershe’s case and persona. Kid Rock name-checked him in some of his early rap lyrics and Eminem was developing a feature-film adaptation of his life in the years after his smash-hit 8 Mile hit screens that never made it off the ground.
Eminem is playing White Boy Rick in the upcoming Starz cable drama Black Mafia Family, the real-life tale of the Flenory brothers and their rise from the streets of Detroit in the late 1980s to running the nation’s wholesale cocaine game with franchises in 23 different states at the peak of their “BMF” reign in the mid-2000s.
In the summer of 1984, a then-14 year old Wershe went to work for a task force made up of FBI, DEA and DPD targeting eastside Detroit drug kingpin Johnny (Lil’ Man) Curry. The ultimate goal of the task force was to flip Curry and get him to testify against Mayor Coleman Young in an ongoing corruption probe that would never birth any charges. Curry’s wife, the beautiful and sophisticated Cathy Volsan, was the Mayor’s favorite niece and Curry seemingly leveraged his marriage into unfettered access to DPD headquarters Downtown and at City Hall with the Mayor Young’s administration.
Wershe was encouraged to drop out of the ninth grade and operate as a mole for the government on a full-time basis. The charming and quick-witted Wershe quickly ingratiated himself to Curry and became a member of his inner-circle.
The feds never nailed Mayor Young. Lil’ Man and his crew was a different story.
The Curry Brothers Gang was toppled by an April 1987 federal drug and racketeering indictment, constructed with mountains of evidence and intelligence spawning directly out of Wershe’s cooperation on the inside of the organization. Once the feds broke off its working relationship with Wershe, then 17 years old and well accustomed to the life of a player in the area’s underworld, went off and became a wholesale drug distributor on his own dime.
As soon as Curry was in prison, Wershe and Volsan began a romantic affair, increasing the already rabid interest level in his unlikely rise in the Motown underworld. At the time, there was a near seven-year age difference between the pair. Wershe’s time filling Lil’ Man Curry’s shoes in the Eastside of Detroit dope game was practically finished before it ever really got started.
On May 22, 1987, Wershe was arrested by DPD patrolmen in front of his grandmother’s house for possessing 8 kilos of cocaine found following a post traffic-stop scuffle. Police originally pulled Wershe and his driver, Roy (Bones) Grisson over in a rented vehicle for rolling a stop sign.
Wershe was found guilty of possession with intent to distribute more than 650 grams of a controlled substance at a January 1988 jury trial in Wayne County Recorders Court and sentenced to mandatory natural life under a since-overturned state law. While in prison, Wershe went back to work for the FBI and DEA and helped them build more cases, even thwarting a high-level New York mafia assassination plot.
Although the law, known as the “650 Lifer Law” was kicked off the books in Michigan in 1998, Wershe wasn’t paroled until July 2017. At that time, he was forced to go to Florida to finish a five-year state prison stint for his role in a stolen car ring being from inside a Lake County federal correctional facility’s witness-security unit.
Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey and newcomer Richie Merritt co-starred in the 2018 film White Boy Rick about the friendship between Wershe (Merritt) and his street-hustling, gun-dealing dad (McConaughey) and how Wershe was used as an underage federal informant. Back in April, White Boy, a documentary Wershe was a part of and which chronicled his stranger-than-fiction case, went viral on Netflix and was trending on the culture-curating streaming platform for 10 days.