Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quit: "Cornbread Mafia" by james Higdon, III

Quit: Cornbread Mafia: a homegrown syndicate's code of silence and the biggest marijuana bust in American history by James Higdon, III, 2012, audio download from Overdrive.com.

I rarely listen or read true crime. I was trying to find audio titles playable on my phone, got sick of looking on my slow phone, and checked this one out.

From the late 1960s until the late 1980s Kentucky became a center for marijuana cultivation and wholesaling.  Higdon relates how a massive multi-state bust in the late '80s netted about 40 (or so) growers and dealers that all originated from the same Kentucky county.

Higdon starts off relating how the lawless attitude to drugs originated from Catholic settlers circa 1800 who ran distilleries. The moonshine business continued through until Prohibition then had a huge hike in employment when prices were high and the Depression put families out of work.  Industrial hemp was grown during WWI and WWII and when soldiers returned from Vietnam smoking marijuana the local farmers used their agriculture skills to grow the dope.  Growing marijuana was a misdemeanor until the early '80s and growers who were caught would post bail in cash and drive off in their new Corvettes.

I quit listening because Higdon seemed to be relating every little story he ever heard. I don't much care about all the roughnecks and crooks in the area who died before the marijuana farming hit big.  Higdorn spoke to a lot of the people involved - crooks and police - and went through court and legal records.  That is great and all but I was overloaded.  This audio clocks at 14'9" and that is too much for me.

1.  The most interesting sections of the book were hearing how the business was run. Getting seeds from around the world. Finding out what varieties would grow in Kentucky. Developing hybrids and cross-breeding. Processing the buds after harvest and shipping them out.  Marketing Kentucky grown products when consumers would turn up their noses at 'hillbilly weed".  Starting farming operations in Belize and smuggling the harvest into the U.S. All those normal business endeavors that are difficult enough in a legitimate business must have been even harder when hidden from the law.  I suppose they did not have to worry so much about bookkeeping when not paying taxes.
2. I should read Gang Leader For A Day by Venkatesh. He hung out with a Chicago street gang for his sociology research and covered the business side of things.
3. In Kansas you can be busted twice over for growing and selling marijuana. If you do not have a tax stamp the state will prosecute for tax fraud. I remember how Gary Howland said people would show up in Topeka and buy tax stamps for that reason. Weird stuff.

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