From the monthly archives: "September 2013"

leannedyck2Leanne Dyck is a mad blogger – three posts a week!  She writes about writing and mysteries, romance novels and knitting. The subset of knitters who like writing (or writers who like knitting) is, well… wow. She’s had nearly 100,000 visitors to her site (last time I asked; she’s probably exceeded that by now). On average her site receives over 200 views a day! She could teach me (and most writers, I suspect) a lot about low-budget promotion. And she puts a lot of that advice in her blog.

She recently posted “Raving About Almost Criminal” which quotes from the book. Read it here.

And even better, she invited me to do a guest post. (Read it here.) One of her thrice-weekly blog posts is written by a guest author. It’s an honour to be among such great company. Dozens of Canadian writers are there: Robin Spano, Lou Allin, Vicki Delaney, Phyllis Smallman, and lots more.

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. 517A1D1CY0L._SY346_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.Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 10.49.47 AM 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.Angels usbookcover

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.

 

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