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.