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Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (May 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618334661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618334667
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As much as 10% of the American economy, and perhaps more, is comprised of illegal "underground" enterprises, according to author and Atlantic Monthly correspondent Eric Schlosser. And while this segment is never discussed in the newspaper business pages, Schlosser tackles it with the same in-depth analysis and compulsive readability that made his Fast Food Nation a best seller. Reefer Madness spotlights marijuana, migrant labor, and pornography, three of the most thriving black market industries, and analyzes the often-tenuous place each holds in society as a whole. While each of the three could be the subject of its own book, Schlosser keeps his scope narrow by concentrating on the lives of the participants in the underground economy, especially Mark Young, an Indiana man given a life sentence for participating in a marijuana sale, and Ohio porn magnate Reuben Sturman. At just 21 pages, the treatment of migrant laborers in the California strawberry fields is dealt with more briefly but is just as compelling thanks to the first-person narrative of Schlosser’s investigation. In telling these stories, which are both personal and universal, Schlosser deftly explores the manner in which his subjects are treated (and punished) compared to others in more above-ground ventures. Along the way, he asks hard questions as to what that treatment says about America. Schlosser writing is passionately opinionated, but this is no mere opinion piece: his perspective is amply supported by extensive research and clearly reasoned interpretation of data. His direct and forceful writing style makes the impact greater still. After reading Reefer Madness, readers are likely to be shocked, appalled, and flat-out bewildered by what’s happening in the cracks and crevices of American business. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

From the bestselling author of Fast Food Nation comes this captivating look at the underbelly of the American marketplace. In three sections, Schlosser, an Atlantic Monthly correspondent, examines the marijuana, migrant labor and pornography trades, offering compelling tales of crime and punishment as well as an illuminating glimpse at the inner workings of the underground economy. The book revolves around two figures: Mark Young of Indiana, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his relatively minor role in a marijuana deal; and Reuben Sturman, an enigmatic Ohio man who built and controlled a formidable pornography distribution empire before finally being convicted of tax evasion, after beating a string of obscenity charges. Through recounting Young's and Sturman's ordeals, and to a lesser extent, the lives of migrant strawberry pickers in California, Schlosser unravels an American society that has "become alienated and at odds with itself." Like Fast Food Nation, this is an eye-opening book, offering the same high level of reporting and research. But while Schlosser does put forth forceful and unique market-based arguments, he isn't the first to take aim at the nation's drug laws and the puritanical hypocrisy that seeks to jail pornographers while permitting indentured servitude in California's strawberry fields. Nevertheless, this is a solid-and timely-second effort from Schlosser. As world events force Americans to choose values worth fighting for, Schlosser reminds readers, "the price of freedom is often what freedom brings."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

ERIC SCHLOSSER is the author of The New York Times bestsellers Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and The Nation.

Customer Reviews

I very muched enjoyed reading this book.
N. Giuliani
Unfortunately this essay is very short and Schlosser does not give the amount of detail and in-depth research that this issue deserves.
doomsdayer520
This is an extremely interesting book and one that I am very glad that I read.
Joe Sherry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By "superflykai" on June 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Eric Schlosser returns in his second published expose' on three different underground economic topics, each an essay originally released in Rolling Stone Magazine. The three essays on marijuana, illegal immigrant workers, and pornography constitute this opus on America's underground economy which accounts for what Schlosser and others believe is 10 percent of the whole American economy constitute "Reefer Madness."
While not nearly as in depth as his first book "Fast Food Nation," Schlosser does more muckraking on topics that not only interest readers who know little about these underground economies, but can also keep the readers attention with experiences and biographies of participants in the underground economies.
I truly think that Schlosser went far more in depth to exhume scarce facts in "Fast Food Nation," while only briefly over-viewing these three topics in "Reefer Madness." To get to the point... it would have been better if "Reefer Madness" was Schlosser's first work instead of "Fast Food Nation - He obviously set the standard for himself too high with his first work.
Schlosser does an excellent job not only presenting these three essays, one leading into the other through prose vignette, but offers a preface of ideas to help set up the reader before the presentation of the three essays. Referencing points from Adam Smith's "On the Wealth of Nations" for the current reigning market system, Schlosser sees what many others refuse to see... Everyone has his or her vice and there is money to be made from this market!
Schlosser finishes "Reefer Madness" with personal points of view and his own ideas on these three portions of the underground American economy and how things about them can be progressively dealt with, and even legalized!?!?!
Eric Schlosser is currently working on another investigative report unfolding the secrets of the American prison system - I am not sure when this work will be released.
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62 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on June 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Reefer Madness" is an uneven examination of the American underground economy. Mr. Schlosser does not attempt a comprehensive examination -- notably absent are software piracy, music downloading, prostitution, offshore banking and gambling --but appears instead to have selected three topics that, presumably, might help sell copies for his publisher. (Such are the perils, apparently, of having to follow up the classic "Fast Food Nation".)
The first section is dedicated to illegal drugs. Mr. Schlosser does a very good job savaging the contradictions of legal and illegal drug policies in this country. In only 64 pages, the author provides background, statistics and case studies that make for very compelling reading. His conclusions are consistent with what most reformers have been arguing for some time. The draconian laws and failed policies of the so-called 'War on Drugs' are so out of step with mainstream American thought and practice that Mr. Schlosser's sly rewrite of a John Lennon anthem resonates with power: "this war is over, if you want it." This devastating critique was my favorite of the three essays, by far.
The second section on illegal labor is a scant 34 pages long. It is focused on the plight of strawberry pickers in California. Mr. Schlosser's keen powers of observation and solid research methodology combine to produce a scathing critique of the inhumane conditions that many migrant farmworkers endure. But by focusing on such a thin slice of the American labor market, it may be difficult to judge the validity of the author's generalized recommendations about rectifying labor abuses nationwide.
Personally, I was disappointed that the third section on the porn industry was as lengthy as the other two combined.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By "zlozoff" on April 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book should be required reading for all the law and policy makers in this country. In plain, simple language, the author puts forth scathing attack on the wars on drugs and porn, and informs us of the often-ignored plight of migrant workers. He also gives the reader an idea of the immense size and scope of the underground economy in this country. An excellent book.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Joe Sherry on May 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After reading the fantastic book Fast Food Nation, I'm willing to read anything that Eric Schlosser publishes. When I heard what the subject matter was for his new book (pot, porn, and illegal labor) I wasn't that interested but I wanted to find out what Schlosser had to say. In the introduction, Schlosser writes that the book is made up of three essays that are mostly unrelated, but these essays were tied together with the idea of the American Underground Economy which pervades the book. Reefer Madness is Schlosser's attempt to show how large the underground economy (meaning, non-taxed and illegal money) is in America. Schlosser discusses the laws and the social conditions that have allowed these things to occur.
The first essay is on Marijuana. Apparently, marijuana is America's number one cash crop, but it is illegal to buy, sell, grow, or possess any amount of marijuana in America. Schlosser gives the history of marijuana legislation and reveals the severity of the punishments regarding marijuana violations (even compared to murder). This essay looks at the applications of marijuana laws throughout United States history. It highlights some of the absurdly harsh penalties given for first time convictions of even trace amounts of pot; this essay also shows the disparity in verdicts for the children of politicians compared to the poor. There are comparisons with the drug laws of other nations and a discussion on the health risks and health concerns regarding marijuana. Very interesting essay.
The second essay deals with illegal labor in California. Specifically, the essay is on the illegal labor in the strawberry industry.
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