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Chronicling pot's role in Emerald Triangle

  • Author Emily Brady

Correction added August 9, 2013:

This story includes a brief description of the book "Marijuanaland," written by retired Sonoma State University professor Jonah Raskin. The passage is in no way intended to depict the author as being involved in marijuana trafficking. He is a longtime reporter and chronicler of the marijuana trade.


Emily Brady was 14 when she watched her best friend in Occidental say goodbye to her father on the morning he left to serve a prison sentence for marijuana cultivation.

Her friend ran to her bedroom and shut the door as her younger brother wailed, said Brady, now 36. A notice that the property had been seized and belonged to the FBI hung on the door.

“It seemed like he had gambled his family in a way, this risk he took stuck with me,” Brady said in an interview.

Brady's memories of that moment in part fueled her first book, “Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier,” which Grand Central Publishing released last week.

In “Humboldt,” Brady chronicles four people's relationship with the county's primary cash crop: A 1960s-era back-to-the-lander, a sheriff's deputy, a man growing for the money and a college student who rejects the pot culture around her.

Brady taps into the dueling optimism and dread among Humboldt County residents during the months leading up to California's 2010 bid to legalize marijuana, Proposition 19, and stays with the community through the months after it failed at the polls.

“I couldn't have written this book otherwise,” Brady said of the timing. “It's a very secretive world, and it cracked open because of Prop. 19 and I slipped inside.”

Many writers have have tried to capture the culture of the pot-steeped communities of the Emerald Triangle — Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties.

Retired Sonoma State University professor Jonah Raskin's book “Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War” also touched on the 2010 proposition's rise and defeat through the eyes of people intimately involved with marijuana in the region. Raskin draws heavily from his personal experience, starting with his father's secret pot garden at the family's Sonoma County property to the trips he made on Highway 101, driving pot south and cash north.

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