Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market

by Eric Schlosser

Hardcover, 2003

Call number

330 S



Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2003), Edition: First Edition, 320 pages


Reports on America's "shadow" economy of illegal drugs, pornography, and illegal migrant workers, arguing that these underground industries continue to grow with government intervention.

User reviews

LibraryThing member elle-kay
I thought this book was incredbily well-written and interesting. It didn't seem like the type of book I would read but when I read it, I was hooked and couldn't stop. Plus, I picked up a lot of party trivia. For example, did you know that the first law in the United States on marijuana was that every household had to grow it? Of course, they used it to make hemp, which was a huge commodity back then, but that's the level of "Snapple-cap/Jeopardy" facts you can pick up... well, at least my stoner friends thought it was cool! haha ;)… (more)
LibraryThing member Darcia
This is a powerful book. Broken into 3 parts, it deals with the history of our approach to marijuana use; our use of illegal immigrants, specifically in the strawberry fields of California; and the development of porn in our country, how it grew, and how our government's attempt to suppress it only continued to spark the flame.

Eric Schlosser's meticulous research is written in an easy to understand form. He states the facts without any bias. For instance, you'll learn that a young man, with no prior record, arrested for marijuana possession can receive a longer prison sentence than a convicted murderer or rapist. And, while our country is in an uproar over illegal immigrants, our government allows these people to be used like slaves when convenient. When they are no longer needed, they are rounded up like cattle and sent back to Mexico.

In the end, whether you agree with his conclusions or not, a new light is shed on a world most of us pay no attention to. And perhaps tells us that we need to get more involved.
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LibraryThing member dvf1976
We have been told for years to bow before "the market." We have placed our faith in the laws of supply and demand. What has been forgotten, or ignored, is that the market rewards only efficiency. Every other human value gets in its way. The market will drive wages down like water, until they reach the lowest possible level.

pg 108
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LibraryThing member Carlie
The author analyzes three trades in the black market, or underground economy: illegal drugs (mainly focusing on marijuana), illegal labor, and money laundering in the porn industry. Much of our American money is used for illegal activities. The author states: "Black markets will always be with us. But they will recede in importance with our public morality is consistent with our private one. The underground is a good measure of the progress and the health of nations. When much is wrong, much needs to be hidden."

Or, in my own words, the government is run by puritanical hypocrites that do not practice what they preach. Control is the name of the game in order to bilk the money, vitality, and independence out of the people. Immorality is fine as long as it benefits those in power; they are the ones who decide what is punishable, after all.
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LibraryThing member ngennaro
This is a great book to go along with Fast Food Nation and Nickel and Dimed in America. All of these books discuss and demonstrate how corporate America while critical needs to be checked and government needs to step up to the plate. It is scary sometimes how close people are living to the edge. How lucky are we that we actually have the time, energy and money to buy and read these books?… (more)
LibraryThing member Ix0x0L
Very interesting and though provoking. However, I got to bored to complete the book.
LibraryThing member elektherelic
Great book, easy to read. At some point in the Porn chapter I got a little bored, but I am unsure why as when I picked the book back up I had it finished in 3 days. The strawberry chapter was infuriating and I haven't eaten them since. The Pot chapter was incredible and frustrating and he did a great job telling stories of people and giving me new information.… (more)
LibraryThing member jbushnell
Three decent essays posing as a coherent book.

There's a broad unifying theme—the premise of examining "what happens in the black market." But the approach that Schlosser takes towards this content—what we could consider his methodology—varies widely from piece to piece, rendering the examination oddly diffuse, short on unifying vision.

Compounding the problem is the fact that each piece comprising the book seems drawn from a different genre: the "drugs" chapter is essentially a persuasive piece, a call for marijuana-law reform, and the goal of examining "what happens" in the drug market is mostly subordinated to the making of that argument. (This isn't to say that growers, dealers and buyers don't make their appearances—but Schlosser's more interested in focusing on the few penalized growers that will help him to make his case rather than trying to draw a larger, richer picture of the market as a whole.) By contrast, the "Sex" chapter is built around the model of the biographical profile, looking at the figure of pornography magnate Reuben Sturman (1924-1997). Sturman was a colorful guy, and Schlosser makes his tale engaging reading, but I'm not convinced that Sturman embodies the vicissitudes of the porn industry so perfectly that one can pass off Sturman's life story as an exploration of the market.

None of this is intended to knock the pieces themselves, which are clear, well-paced, and nicely detailed, essentially bedrock models of good journalism. But as a book it doesn't live up to the promise of its organizing principle.
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LibraryThing member cantinera
Such an interesting topic, but written in such a sensational, dumbed-down style -- what a shame! It was like a tabloid version of this study; the style felt like the author was trying to shock more than inform (and that's excluding the fact that most of this information I already knew).
LibraryThing member heradas
Very informative and absolutely infuriating. This should be required reading for everyone.
LibraryThing member bereanna
This one definitely showed the other side of marijuana, illegal aliens, and porn, but it was already 11 years out of print when I read it, so the data isn't so fresh. I enjoyed the writing and would read others of Eric's works.
LibraryThing member BruceCoulson
Excellent reporting of the underside of the economy. "If the market does indeed embody the sum of all human wishes, then the secret ones are just as important as the ones openly displayed." The Black Markets covered by Schlosser are perfect examples of a free-market economy, without regulations. The efforts to ban such markets, and the failures to do so, are detailed in the essays. Informative and well written.… (more)




0618334661 / 9780618334667


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