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Bud Inc.: Inside Canada’s Marijuana Industry

by Ian Mulgrew

There can be no denying that the pot phenomenon, confined decades ago to a supposed fringe underground, has since morphed into a mainstream drug of choice. The drug has become so ubiquitous that even prime-time television now features a sitcom whose main character is a pot dealer. Investigative journalist Ian Mulgrew must have seen this coming. Thankfully, in Bud Inc. he eschews the stoner mythologies and pithy headlines to delve deeply into the serious, critical contexts of the marijuana issues. And yes, he delivers the dope.

In this thorough, authoritative volume, Mulgrew illuminates the recent history of this versatile plant’s allure, from the counter-culture days through to Vancouver’s over-the-counter cannabis cafés. And while his pro-legalization bias is acknowledged up front, he wastes no time in clarifying for any objective reader the real and relevant stats, especially as they relate to this country. That the industry is now worth about $6-billion (wholesale). That the bud is fast becoming (if it isn’t already) the largest export product for B.C., Ontario, and Quebec. That nearly a million people in Canada could benefit from medicinal marijuana. Through anecdote and interview Mulgrew reveals the key players locally and internationally – from the original draft-dodger growers in the Kootenays to the game’s current major-leaguers: the growers, the smugglers, the dealers, and the policy pushers.

Mulgrew captures the legalization movement’s glory, as dedicated activists and advocates, defying the prohibition and the bureaucratic mayhem, try to force change through legislation and public policy. Mulgrew also relates the courtroom complications and jail sentences, the dramatic cargo ship busts on open seas, and the violent, armed biker-gang rivalries.

Most importantly, Mulgrew clarifies the ongoing debate between decriminalization and legalization: “Decriminalization keeps the industry underground and perpetuates the unwanted side of the business – crime, corruption, violence and the collateral damage. The only benefit is, users can relax.” He also develops the case for medicinal marijuana, which may one day soon become prohibition’s breaking point. (Even Bayer, the makers of Aspirin, have $100-million invested in weed.)

The times, they are indeed a-changin’. And Bud Inc. might just nudge the times along.