Weed Land: Inside America's Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit

Weed Land: Inside America's Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit

Weed Land: Inside America's Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit

Weed Land: Inside America's Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit


Early in the morning of September 5, 2002, camouflaged and heavily armed Drug Enforcement Administration agents descended on a terraced marijuana garden. The DEA raid on the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a sanctuary for severely ill patients who were using marijuana as medicine, is the riveting opening scene in Weed Land, an up-close journalistic narrative that chronicles a transformative epoch for marijuana in America.

From the 1996 passage of California's Proposition 215, the nation's first medical marijuana law, through law enforcement raids, clinical studies that revealed medical benefits for cannabis, and the emergence of a lucrative cannabis industry, Weed Land reveals the changing political, legal, economic, and social dynamics around pot. Peter Hecht, an award-winning journalist from The Sacramento Bee, offers an independent, meticulously reported account of the clashes and contradictions of a burgeoning California cannabis culture that stoked pot liberalization across the country.


For the California medical marijuana movement, this was its siege at Wounded Knee. Early in the morning of September 5, 2002, dozens of Drug Enforcement Administration agents, camouflaged and heavily armed, surged into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their black-windowed four-wheel-drive vehicles, followed by a U-Haul truck, rumbled into the forest and up a winding road, climbing to a crescent-shaped ridge shrouded by coastal redwoods and eucalyptus. Beneath the ridge was a terraced marijuana garden—a medicinal and spiritual refuge for the sick and dying.

Mike Corral, cofounder and supervising gardener for the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, had just arisen. He heard the vehicles lurch to a stop at 6:45 outside his board-and-batten cottage, which had a grooved fiberglass roof and a solar heat collector. Corral had stayed there while his wife, Valerie Corral, and two female friends had gone to a James Joyce reading in Santa Cruz by local author and philosopher Robert Anton Wilson. The women were in the upper house on the property, a rustic, angular lodge perpetually under construction. They had gone to bed after sitting up until 3 A.M. wrestling with ideas for a hospice care program for terminally ill friends who used marijuana to quiet the searing pains from cancer or AIDS as they readied for their final journeys.

Mike Corral looked out a window to the clearing between his cottage and the WAMM garden, a flowering orchard of 167 marijuana plants, arranged with paths for wheelchairs and a welcoming sign: Love Grows Here. He saw agents bolting out with automatic weapons and then scurrying to assemble a battering ram. Corral ran to leash his Belgian sheepdog, Ebo, fearing they might shoot the dog if it were loose. He grabbed his cell phone, dialing the first five digits of Valerie’s number before the officers burst inside.

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