Pot, Inc: Inside Medical Marijuana, America's Most Outlaw Industry

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 April, 2012, 12:00am


Pot, Inc: Inside Medical Marijuana, America's Most Outlaw Industry
by Greg Campbell

Since then-president Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs in 1971, the US has spent US$1 trillion waging it and arrested about 17 million marijuana users - and the aggression is pointless, according to Colorado journalist Greg Campbell in Pot, Inc.

Campbell has personal insight because he has flirted on drug culture's fringes, growing his own medical marijuana plantation. 'All I knew,' he writes, 'was that my eyes were wide open when, in the spring of 2010, I flipped the switch in a humid little room in my basement and was momentarily blinded by a pair of grow lights hanging over my very own cannabis plants. At that moment, it didn't matter if I lived in the most permissive state or the least, if I was a medical patient or a chronic pothead - I'd joined a community that had existed in the shadows for more than half a century; an invisible army of millions of suburban outlaws whose crime was horticulture.'

Exactly. Campbell, an accomplished writer previously responsible for exposes including Blood Diamonds - the source for the Leonardo DiCaprio film - squashes the arguments against marijuana. Prohibition just fuels a massive black economy although the herb wreaks less harm than alcohol and is a proven pain reliever, he notes.

Just to prove that last point, in one episode the suburban father whose worst usual vice is a cold beer, smokes a home-grown joint on his porch before a thunderstorm, to magical effect - his chronic bad back suddenly feels better than it has ever been. He feels ready to levitate.

Campbell's love affair with the wonder weed began in 2009 when Colorado started pioneering the gradual promotion of medical marijuana into the mainstream. Profitable, legal dispensaries duly bloomed, inspiring Campbell. Pot, Inc charts his adventures in DIY 'ganjapreneurialism' as he grapples with costly, complex production mechanics. Three months of paranoia-ridden stress net him just US$500 - a US$300 loss.

Still, his experiment opens his eyes. No longer does he see pot as an 'exploitative commodity' but a 'spiritual enigma', he writes, and vents his contempt for the litigious ignorance surrounding the 'drug'.

Marijuana, he reckons, is less addictive than the cocoa bean and not the motivation wrecker critics claim. Swimmer Michael Phelps and tycoon Sir Richard Branson have allegedly indulged. Ditto political supermen Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When Campbell leaves bust-obsessed police and potheads behind, he can shift into high gear with sensual brio that would wow any creative writing guru. Take his description of his basement plantation of 'felonious flora'.

'They gave off a powerful but not unpleasant odour, a rich and loamy scent that reminded me of elementary school trips to working farms so we could see where food came from,' he writes.

'The buds were sticky, leaving my fingers tacky with resin. I had the feeling that I was meeting an alien life form, one that I wasn't sure, at first, was benign.

'At first I didn't want to touch them because they seemed so delicate and majestic, but soon I was deep in the forest with the plants over my head, tickled on all sides by their slender leaves.'

The feel and fragrance of pot permeates each page with such thrumming intensity that you wonder whether Campbell really had just one joint.