The Weed Runners: Travels with the Outlaw Capitalists and Modern-Day Bootleggers of America’s Medical Marijuana Trade

Nicholas Schou, Author, Nick Schou, Author
Nicholas Schou. Chicago Review (IPG, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-61374-410-9
Reviewed on: 06/10/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
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Since the legalization of medical marijuana in California in 1996, a lack of uniform regulations has made the business climate for dispensaries tempestuous to say the least, and in some cases individuals who trade in illegal drugs or have ties to organized crime are best poised to take advantage of the new market. Investigative journalist Schou (Kill the Messenger) spent three years studying these pioneers, nearly getting arrested himself on more than one occasion. He calls the quilt of local rules and enforcement “a nightmare where nobody benefit[s],” except corrupt officials. Possession limits have “fluctuated wildly” and penalties are “ever-changing,” while a popular municipal strategy has been to allow the number of dispensaries to skyrocket before passing an ordinance retroactively, charging extortionate licensing fees and pursuing lengthy prison sentences against the owners and employees of any businesses that don’t pay up. Conversely, the veneer of legality is only skin-deep—one licensed grower admits that he sells 95% of his crop on the black market, and admits that “medical marijuana is… a marketing term.” While the vignettes are entertaining, the book was written before a massive crackdown decimated the industry in California, and before Colorado and Washington unexpectedly voted to legalize recreational marijuana. In a brief epilogue, Schou warns smokers and entrepreneurs in those states. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (Sept.)
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