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Reefer Madness

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Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market

Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market

Released this month, “Reefer Madness” is Eric Schlosser’s followup to his best-seller “Fast Food Nation”. While “Reefer Madness” is structured around three essays with the common theme of the black market in the United States, the thorough research and documentation of “Fast Food Nation” is here as well.

The world’s underground economy is underpinned by the currency of the United States. Currently the majority of $100 bills in circulation are outside the USA. Schlosser looks at three areas where the US is the biggest producer and consumer of black market commodities: marijuana, illegal migrant labour and pornography. The contradiction of increased illegality increasing the value of the black market is one of the main themes of the book.

The first chapter looks at the failed war on drugs and the domestic consequences of Prohibition. Schlosser takes one case of Mark Young, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for introducing a marijuana grower to a buyer. The wildly inconsistent and unbelievable penalties for marijuana and drug hysteria of the last 20 years is painstakingly documented in this, the largest section of the book.

The middle chapter looks at the increasing use of illegal migrant labour from Mexico to harvest strawberries, which because of the growing market demand for unblemished fruit, must be picked by hand.

The final chapter, which while about the growth and movement into the mainstream of the US porn industry is more about the efforts of Reuben Sturman to keep the money generated by his porn distribution empire out of the hands of the US government. Reuben who? was his life goal, and making Cleveland the centre of porn in North America his accomplishment.

“Reefer Madness” is engrossing, well-researched and enlightening.

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About Jim Carruthers

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Jim, I heard Schlosser on NPR and his main theme is that we can’t understand human desires until we look at the entire economy, including black, and that by pretending this huge section of the economy doesn’t exist we are dishonest, and do a disservice to consumers and suppliers alike.

  • The book grew out of some articles he wrote for magazines. His two 1994 stories on pot Reefer Madness and Marijuana and the Law as well as In the Strawberry Fields. His next book is on prisons and will probably include material from The Prison Industrial Complex and a piece on families of murder victims. All are from the Atlantic.

    His porn cover story for US News is no longer online for free unfortunately.

    I’ve heard him on a number of radio programs and he has been impressive. I missed him on working assets radio, but it is the easiest one to link to (he was also on west coast live during the second hour).

  • I’ll be interviewing Eric Schlosser on Tuesday afternoon about Reefer Madness, so if you have any questions let me know at jim@resonation.ca.

  • Eric Olsen

    That’s cool Jim, ask him if he hires naked, underage illegals to harvest his buds.