HIGH TIMES Books is pleased to announce the publication of Marijuanaland: Dispatches From an American War by longtime contributor Jonah Raskin. In the early ’80s, Raskin began working as a marijuana reporter in and around his native California, with a beat that encompassed pot politics, pot growers and potheads. For Marijuanaland, he returned to the field to detail the good, bad and ugly sides of cannabis culture throughout the famed Emerald Triangle. Follow his gonzo adventures as he speaks to the growers, dealers, dispensary owners, lawyers, smokers and cops who comprise the quasi-legal marijuana industry in Northern California. Like Hunter S. Thompson before him, Raskin doesn’t shy away from participating in the stories he’s supposed to be covering. Here, we find him at a trimming party—a writer who’s not afraid to get his hands sticky.
I took part in a harvest on land owned by two brothers who were in their early thirties and had resolved their sibling rivalries to become friends. They had 100 or so plants, all Cannabis indica, and they estimated that each plant would produce at least a pound and perhaps two. But they were being modest; I could see that many of the plants would yield closer to three or even four pounds. The brothers would have more marijuana than they had ever had before, and they were overjoyed. They didn’t want to count their money before it was in their pockets, but they were counting it in their heads and their eyes were bulging.
I arrived five days into the harvest and went right to work. In the garden, I cut down the tops—huge, sticky colas—and transported them uphill in a golf cart to the trailer where the manicuring took place. The work was steady and unhurried; it was quiet everywhere around us. I felt that I was in the land of silence—I could barely even hear the bees buzzing or the hummingbirds humming. There was no sound of wind in the fir trees. The landscape was gentle, the sky was cloudy, and I felt at peace—Marijuanaland at its best.
The two brothers, Pancake and Rye, along with four of their friends, harvested and manicured all day long. The marijuana strain they were trimming, which I also helped manicure on the day that I visited, was called LA Confidential. They hoped to sell all their pot to one dealer from LA that they trusted at $1,800 a pound. They would front him most of the pot and would be in no rush to sell it. If they had to wait until February, they said, then they would wait, but they would not drop their price.
I had met Pancake and Rye in February and followed Pancake around for about eight months. (His brother, Rye, had other matters to attend to.) Pancake showed me their indoor and outdoor operations and talked almost without stopping about politics, pot, his two favorite authors—Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut— and his all-time favorite TV show, South Park, which had played, he felt, a crucial role in his development.
Pancake went to work for his dad after graduating high school and learned how to grow legal flowers such as roses and zinnias. “For a while, I hated roses,” Pancake told me. “I once planted Z,500 bare-root roses, thorns and all, and after a while I began to call them `bastards.”‘ For cannabis, on the other hand, he had a real affection; the pot plants were his “darlings.”
During his teens and early twenties, he was in full-blown rebellion, he told me, against his parents, his family and whatever else came along. He and Rye were both arrested for possession by a cop they knew from their high-school days, and who had never liked their irreverent style. The arrest didn’t deter them from their newfound mission: to grow the best marijuana ever.
Their parents were worried about them, and for a time the family came apart. Then they decided to turn Dad on; he started to smoke marijuana and enjoyed it, and felt pride in his sons who grew such unconventional flowers. The old father-sons rivalry faded away, and the family that smoked together grew closer.
“I started to grow pot when I was a teenager,” Pancake told me one day when we were driving around town in his battered station wagon. “Most of my classmates smoked—the honor-roll students and the auto-shop guys. I didn’t like the idea of buying weed from someone else; I wanted to be able to smoke my own pot—and then, after that, I wanted to make enough money by growing it to support myself.”
Pancake parked the car, and we went into a garden-supply store where he bought bags of fertilizer and a pair of clippers. Then, back in the car, he continued his tale.