Where others involved in the hippie-era drug trade laid low, the flamboyant
Rowbotham was defiant to a fault. With each life-altering bust he would take
his punishment with explosive speeches to the court, declaring the law an
ass and vowing to carry on upon his release.
At his peak as a world-class smuggler based in Toronto, Rosie had big
names on his side — two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer, in
1977, and singer/songwriter Neil Young in 1985, each stood in the witness
box speaking in his defence as sentencing loomed.
Mailer described Rowbotham as equal parts swashbuckling Errol Flynn and
for-the-people Robin Hood, saying locking him up would be “bad for the
cosmos.” Young, whose brother Bob was among the co-defendants in ’85,
stressed that Rowbotham’s Toronto network drew a “moral line” of trading
only in cannabis. And the only thing wrong with that, said Young, is that
“the government’s not getting its share.”