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Romancing Mary Jane: A Year in the Life of a Failed Marijuana Grower

by Michael Poole

When former documentary filmmaker Michael Poole reached a workaholic’s meltdown, he remedied his soul by taking his hobby of smoking marijuana to a new realm. Poole moved to a cabin on B.C.’s Sechelt Peninsula and started farming weed. As the subtitle of his one-year memoir suggests, it was an unsuccessful career move. At least in terms of a harvest.

Poole’s hidden gardens were raided by the RCMP just days before his buds reached their peak. But that year was a revelation for him regardless. During his time there he met lifetime cannabis farmers, some living on the nearby islands since dodging the Vietnam War.

Outdoor pot growers are an intriguing mix of naturalists, dropouts, and sensitive idealists – peace-loving folk, in other words, torn between the necessity to keep their occupation a secret and their belief that cannabis is elating food for the soul that has, due to the war on drugs, been irrationally criminalized.

Poole, however, only taps at the embroiled politics; he doesn’t delve into them. It is common knowledge in the pro-cannabis camp that bureaucrats and law enforcers find more pros than cons in keeping marijuana illegal – legalizing weed would put a wrench into the pharmaceutical industry’s tranquilizer market, alcohol barons would see their market shrink, and prison guards would lose their jobs. These are hefty theories that need in-depth analysis in order to reach beyond the converted.

But the real story is the people who live dangerously to uphold their beliefs. While Poole introduces many of them and gives insider anecdotes on how sophisticated hybridizing seeds and hiding crops has become, the trials and tribulations read flat. This is the kind of book that requires a journalistic sense for detail and well-crafted writing. Poole does find his sources, at one point interviewing a wholesaler who supplies the American west coast as well as Canada from B.C. to Ontario. But the writing of all this intrigue is dampened by Poole’s pedestrian writing style – “a Beaver floatplane thunders overhead so low my fillings rattle” – that a reader doesn’t feel any closer to the people who have been supplying the nation with cannabis for the past three decades.