How do you know so much about the marijuana business?
I get this question a lot. Usually accompanied by a snicker, and a comment about how much fun the research must have been. It was fun, but not in that way. As a former technical writer, I’m pretty good at research.
First, I read the newspapers. It’s all there! And I spoke to people. There are a lot of people involved in B. C. Bud, and it’s not hard to find someone who knows someone. As Tate reflects in the book, who gives a damn about a grow op? Back in Vancouver there were two of them on his block. Tate’s thoughts are really mine. On the block where I live today, there were, at one time, three grow ops, or so a neighbour tells me. One of the nicely renovated homes across the street from me is a former grow-op; to clear out the mould, they had to go right down to the studs.
And I hit the books. There was the Marijuana Grower’s Handbook, with a foreword by Tommy Chong. The Cannabible, a three-volume compendium of hundreds and hundreds of varieties of pot, from “Alaskan Thunderfuck” to “Willie Nelson”.
But there’s some real history in Almost Criminal, and some specific details about the workings of the industry. For the “real stuff” my primary source was Bud Inc.: Inside Canada’s Marijuana Industry, by Ian Mulgrew, a Vancouver Sun reporter. Published in 2005, it’s a journalistic investigation into the marijuana business and the “pot barons” that run the show.
Bud Inc. reports the hard numbers on the business that Forbes magazine calls “Canada’s most valuable agricultural product — bigger than wheat, cattle or timber.” The book includes the oft-quoted estimate that B.C. marijuana’s annual wholesale value (at the time of printing) was $6 billion, or about 5% of the province’s total economy…. and thus, B.C.’s largest export. A fascinating book. Highly recommended.
For some of the details of the biker gangs that run the business-behind-the business, my primary sources were books by Julian Sher and William Marsden: Angels of Death: Inside the Bikers Empire of Crime, and The Road to Hell: How the Biker Gangs are Conquering Canada. Links to the author’s website here.
Unlike most of the weed-related research, those books are scary.
In the next instalment I’ll talk about the challenges of getting an honest answer when your research subjects are stoners and evangelizers. And how Marc Emery, the imprisoned pot activist, read an early draft of the book in his jail cell.