Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier

When I lived in Northern California, a friend and I visited another friend who lived in Humboldt County. I remember being warned to look up in the trees before even thinking about smoking outdoors. At that time, the local law enforcement would wait for unsuspecting college kids to light up in the woods and then rappel down from trees to bust them - or so the story went. The other thing I remember about that trip was seeing the absolutely wonderfully crazy Kinetic Grand Championship - formerly known as the Kinetic Sculpture Race. Imagine two to five people racing over 40 miles in a bike sculpture that also needs to be able to move through sand and float on water. For these reasons and more, when I saw Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier by Emily Brady I knew I wanted to read it.

The book centers on four different people: Mare - an older hippie, Crockett - a younger grower, Emma - a student who grew up in Humboldt, and Bob - a deputy sheriff who patrols all of the southern part of the county (usually by himself). Mare is interested in growing marijuana for medicinal use, Crockett wants to make as much money as he can before cannabis is legalized in the state and the black market is killed. Emma is trying to understand why so many of the young people she grew up with have died. And Bob realized a long time ago that the country's War on Drugs was a complete waste of time and money. Each person's stories are interspersed with the others to tell the larger story of what life is like for those who live in Humboldt. Brady spent more than a year living in the county doing research and gaining trust from the inhabitants. This is a compelling book with memorable characters and stories.

- Sarah

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