A portrait of a popular proposition running afoul of federal drug enforcement agencies.
When OC Weekly investigative journalist Schou (Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, 2010, etc.) began his research, medical marijuana had been well-established as legal in California. As a result of Proposition 215, which legalized the use and possession of medical marijuana, dozens of workers at hundreds of local dispensaries were employed, large windfalls in taxes on transactions at marijuana dispensaries were collected, and people with all kinds of ailments were medicated across the state. By the end of Schou’s investigation, medical marijuana’s legalization was under severe attack from federal and local governments intent on returning to the status quo, when lines were starkly drawn between law enforcement and the underground cannabis economy. Schou’s investigation showed that the tensions between law enforcement and “legal” marijuana growers and distributors in California had never truly abated in the decade since the pioneering proposition passed. Anti-marijuana politicians and district attorneys had (with some reason) suspected all along that “medical marijuana” provided an excuse for longtime drug smugglers and dealers to grow their recreational weed businesses under the color of law. One of the most fascinating characters in Schou’s story is Lucky, an entrepreneurial dealer and distributor with a state-of-the-art pot farm in the state’s Emerald Triangle; his involvement in the weed economy goes back to the early 1980s, when he ran with the son of a Mafia don. But Schou also looks at many of the victims of the federal crackdown, people who have tried to comply with often draconian (and corrupt) local laws because of their sincere belief, often from personal experience, in the medicinal powers of marijuana.
Occasionally scattershot but valuable look at the way California’s medical marijuana law and the crackdown against it have affected people of all walks of life.