The Rise and Fall of a Marijuana Empire
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A saga of big risk and big reward within the romanticized pirate life of marijuana smugglers along the Florida Coast.

Wisconsinite McBride had no big plans or schemes when he followed a buddy to Florida and started working on a crab boat. However, he discovered that the moonlighting part of boat work could be unbelievably lucrative. “I got paid $50,000 for each of those hauls,” he explains of his early days as something of a pot-smuggling flunky. Such a sum soon seemed like chump change, as he became a conduit between Colombian sellers and Cuban buyers. This memoir, ghostwritten a couple decades after the fact, alternates adventures from the marijuana smuggling trade with life in prison, where McBride was sentenced to 10 years but served only four due to some cooperation and research in the law library. With marijuana now legal in some states and possession decriminalized in many others, the author seems to be writing of a whole different era, when smugglers made so much money that their main problem seemed to be where to spend or hide it all. “You can’t let all that money pile up,” he writes. “You’ve got to do something with it. Anything.” He relates how he once stashed $500,000 in the attic, only to discover that mice had eaten their way through half of it. McBride makes his business seem fairly benign compared to the more violent cocaine trade, as well as the Mexican drug wars that would follow the Florida crackdown. He was one of a few hundred who went to prison, sent in part by others who had sold them out for lighter sentences. He made his millions and he paid the price. He still doesn’t see anything wrong in what he did, and society now seems to agree that the war on this particular drug was likely misguided.

An up-and-down true story about a time and place that has inspired plenty of fiction.

Pub Date: April 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-05128-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2015


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