The bellow quotation is from Peter Benchley’s Jaws:

“…; when, very rarely, a couple of predators from Queens would lurk in the dark side streets and mug passersby; and when, about twice a month in a summer, enough evidence having accumulated, the police would feel obliged to stage a pot bust at one of the huge waterfront homes”.

I would like to know the meaning of the phrase “to stage a pot bust”.

All that I could find about the verb “to stage” in Merriam-Webster Dictionary, please see # 2.

Regarding “pot bust”, anything on the internet is related to marijuana.

Would you please explain the meaning of the phrase: “to stage a pot bust”?

3 Answers 3


In this case, the meaning is "to set up a situation in which it's possible to make an arrest for possession and/or sale of marijuana". There are three different non-standard terms packed into a five-word phrase:

  • "stage" - in this case, it's used in a manner related to staging a play: setting up a situation to appear to be one thing but be another. In this case, it's probably a meeting that looks to be secret but which is actually closely watched (and possibly even recorded).
  • "pot" is marijuana in this context.
  • "bust" is a slang term for "arrest"
  • stage has anything to do with frame in this particular case? Mar 21, 2014 at 22:36
  • It's a subtle distinction, but I don't believe this is the best interpretation of "stage" -- that it was somehow false. More like "put on a show."
    – relaxing
    Mar 21, 2014 at 22:40
  • 2
    "Frame" means to create false evidence to make a conviction possible; stage means to create a situation in which the person(s) that the police are looking to arrest create the evidence themselves. "Staged" situations generally are traps waiting for anyone; a "sting" is a staged situation that a particular person is lured into participating in. Mar 21, 2014 at 22:45
  • thank you too. I only knew the meaning of to frame someone. Mar 21, 2014 at 22:47
  • 1
    @Lucian - If law enforcement frames someone, that is improper and unethical. If law enforcement stages something, that is within the bounds of appropriate professional behavior. That's an interesting distinction I've never thought about much. The word is often used when the media reports on a major police operation; see this headline for one example: Feds, police stage major gang bust in county.
    – J.R.
    Mar 22, 2014 at 9:51
  • To stage in this sense means to arrange and carry out an action. It is a theatrical metaphor: we have said since Shakespeare's day that a company or producer stages a play, puts it on stage for an audience.

    Because of this origin there is an overtone here of the pot busts being a “show” which has been contrived to demonstrate police diligence.

  • A bust is an arrest. This is a slang term, which arose in the 1960s drug culture, and was originally used of arrests for possession or distribution of illicit drugs. Bust is also used as a verb, “to arrest”.

  • How do you get to know when and where a term appears? Please, please, tell me your secret!
    – Nico
    Mar 21, 2014 at 23:32
  • 1
    @Nico Well, I know about stage because my academic discipline was theatre history, with a concentration in British theatre - which also means I'm broadly familiar with about 600 years of British literature. I can usually guess about anything else and then run over to the OED to check it out. As for the 60s drug culture, I know about it because I was part of it. Mar 21, 2014 at 23:35
  • like being a historian and making history! :)
    – Nico
    Mar 21, 2014 at 23:38
  • @Nico Well, it was more like enduring history :) Mar 21, 2014 at 23:40
  • 1
    RE: an overtone of the pot busts being a “show” which has been contrived to demonstrate police diligence. That makes it sounds like this is more of a façade than diligent police work. If that's what you meant, I disagree. The stage metaphor may be accurate, but that doesn't mean this is mere "theatrics"; it could allude to preparation. If you've been involved in theater, you know the stage crew can put as much work into designing and building the set as the actors do in memorizing and rehearsing their lines. "Staging a bust" means: get all the people & equipment to the right place & time.
    – J.R.
    Mar 24, 2014 at 8:54

You're on the right track.

  • 2 stage 2, as you note, "to cause to happen for public effect"
  • 3 bust 4a - a police raid
  • pot, as you note, is slang for marijuana.

"stage a pot bust" = a police raid for marijuana

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