Sacramento Bee senior writer Hecht chronicles how "reefer madness" divided the Golden State's pot-loving community and forever changed America's attitudes toward marijuana.
In 1996, the state of California passed Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized the personal use of marijuana for medical purposes. That, however, didn't stop federal officials from tearing through recognized medical dispensaries, chopping down plants, and cuffing growers responsible for easing the pain of scores of AIDS patients and cancer sufferers. It also didn't prevent—and in many ways, it instigated—the deep divide that was to develop between medical marijuana proponents and those dedicated to universally legalizing weed throughout the land. As the author painstakingly demonstrates, compassionate care would soon run headlong into cannabis commerce, while agents of the Department of Justice circled overhead, eager to strip the bones of both combatants. Hecht quotes U.S. attorney Melinda Haag: "The California compassionate use act was intended to help seriously ill people….But the law has been hijacked by profiteers who are motivated not by compassion but by money." Hecht introduces readers to a cavalcade of characters on all sides of the contentious marijuana issue. These include hard-assed narcs, wheelchair-bound activists, opportunistic entrepreneurs, cigar-chomping union chiefs and other assorted heroes of hemp. What many didn't realize during those pivotal years in the late ’90s was that with legalization would come regulation—lots of regulation. Some of it threatened to put old-school pot growers out of business while at the same time undermining all the gains medical marijuana growers had made throughout the years. It's a complex situation roiling inside a haze of Purple Hindu Kush but one to which Hecht is able to bring commendable clarity and context.
A comprehensive and compelling report on the weed wars still raging across the country.