Summer Reading B2G1 Free

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2003


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

by Eric Schlosser

Eric Schlosser Goes Underground

A review by John H. Richardson

My editor asked me to write this review stoned. But, dude, this is not a stoner book. Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness marches forward with clear eyes and a sober face, ready to do its civic duty. For example: "Two decades after the latest war on drugs was declared, some rough numbers may hint at its cost: billions of dollars spent so far at the state, federal, and local levels to fight marijuana; ten million Americans arrested for marijuana offenses; about a quarter of a million people convicted of marijuana felonies and sent to prison for at least a year." The sentence may be a clunker, but you won't hear these facts from most journalists, and the craven, opportunistic vultures we call our leaders ignore them completely. A quarter of a million people? In prison for a year? For pot? You've got to be fucking kidding me.

But Schlosser, justly famous for Fast Food Nation, stares the stats down. He's very much the "interpretive" journalist, deftly sketching historical roots and sociological implications and bringing it all to life with narrative portraits of ordinary people, then summing up with a frank statement of his policy recommendations. It's true that sometimes his interviews feel like they're there just to illustrate his argument. And, yeah, a more honest title for this book -- which also includes pieces on pornography and illegal migrant labor, linked by a few grace notes on the underground economy -- would be Three Investigative Essays. But so what? Schlosser's one of the good guys. And who knows -- maybe those craven, opportunistic vultures will even listen to him.

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