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The stat sheet on hemp sounds almost too good to be true: its fibers are among the planet’s strongest, its seed oil the most nutritious, and its potential as an energy source vast and untapped. Its one downside? For nearly a century, it’s been illegal to grow industrial cannabis in the United States–even though Betsy Ross wove the nation’s first flag out of hemp fabric, Thomas Jefferson composed the Declaration of Independence on it, and colonists could pay their taxes with it. But as the prohibition on hemp’s psychoactive cousin winds down, one of humanity’s longest-utilized plants is about to be reincorporated into the American economy. Get ready for the newest billion-dollar industry.
In Hemp Bound:Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution, bestselling author Doug Fine embarks on a humorous yet rigorous journey to meet the men and women who are testing, researching, and pioneering hemp’s applications for the twenty-first century. From Denver, where Fine hitches a ride in a hemp-powered limo; to Asheville, North Carolina, where carbon-negative hempcrete-insulated houses are sparking a mini housing boom; to Manitoba where he raps his knuckles on the hood of a hemp tractor; and finally to the fields of east Colorado, where practical farmers are looking toward hemp to restore their agricultural economy—Fine learns how eminently possible it is for this misunderstood plant to help us end dependence on fossil fuels, heal farm soils damaged after a century of growing monocultures, and bring even more taxable revenue into the economy than its smokable relative.
Fine’s journey will not only leave you wondering why we ever stopped cultivating this miracle crop, it will fire you up to sow a field of it for yourself, for the nation’s economy, and for the planet.
The nation’s economy is in trouble, but there’s one cash crop that has the potential to turn it around: cannabis (also known as marijuana and hemp). According to Time, the legal medicinal cannabis economy already generates $200 million annually in taxable proceeds from a mere two hundred thousand registered medical users in just fourteen states.
But, thanks to Nixon and the War on Drugs, cannabis is still synonymous with heroin on the federal level even though it has won mainstream acceptance nationwide.
ABC News reports that underground cannabis’s $35.8 billion annual revenues already exceed the combined value of corn ($23.3 billion) and wheat ($7.5 billion). Considering the economic impact of Prohibition—and its repeal—Too High to Fail isn’t a commune-dweller’s utopian rant, it’s an objectively (if humorously) reported account of how one plant can drastically change the shape of our country, culturally, politically, and economically.
Too High to Fail covers everything from a brief history of hemp to an insider’s perspective on a growing season in Mendocino County, where cannabis drives 80 percent of the economy (to the tune of $6 billion annually). Investigative journalist Doug Fine follows one plant from seed to patient in the first American county to fully legalize and regulate cannabis farming. He profiles an issue of critical importance to lawmakers, media pundits, and ordinary Americans—whether or not they inhale. It’s a wild ride that includes swooping helicopters, college tuitions paid with cash, cannabis-friendly sheriffs, and never-before-gained access to the world of the emerging legitimate, taxpaying “ganjaprenneur.”
“Fine is Bryson Funny.” ——Santa Cruz Sentinel
“Fine is an amiable and self-deprecating storyteller in the mold of Douglas Adams. If you're a fan of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-style humor -- and also looking to find out how to raise your own livestock to feed your ice-cream fetish -- Farewell may prove a vital tool.” —— The Washington Post
“Fine is an eco-hero for our time..” —— Miami Herald
“An afterward offers solid advice and sources for learning more.” —— On Earth Magazine, Natural Resources Defense Fund
“This is Green Acres for the smart set—: a witty and educational look at sustainable living. Buy it, read it, compost it.”
–A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically
“The details of Doug Fine’s experiment in green living are great fun——but more important is the spirit, the dawning understanding that living in connection to something more tangible than a computer mouse is what we were built for. It’ll make you want to move!”
–Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
Like many Americans, Doug Fine enjoys his creature comforts, but he also knows full well they keep him addicted to oil. So he wonders: Is it possible to keep his Netflix and his car, his Wi-Fi and his subwoofers, and still reduce his carbon footprint?
In an attempt to find out, Fine up and moves to a remote ranch in New Mexico, where he brazenly vows to grow his own food, use sunlight to power his world, and drive on restaurant grease. Never mind that he’s never raised so much as a chicken or a bean. Or that he has no mechanical or electrical skills.
Whether installing Japanese solar panels, defending the goats he found on Craigslist against coyotes, or co-opting waste oil from the local Chinese restaurant to try and fill the new “veggie oil” tank in his ROAT (short for Ridiculously Oversized American Truck), Fine’s extraordinary undertaking makes one thing clear: It ain’t easy being green. In fact, his journey uncovers a slew of surprising facts about alternative energy, organic and locally grown food, and climate change.
Both a hilarious romp and an inspiring call to action, Farewell, My Subaru makes a profound statement about trading today’s instant gratifications for a deeper, more enduring kind of satisfaction.
From the Hardcover edition.