It's not all peace and love in Marijuana Valley

Crash Barry's new book explores Maine's pot-farming subculture
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  April 16, 2014


Marijuana Valley | by Crash Barry | Published by
Maine Misadventures | 256 pages | $18

“Please get high and listen to my great plan,” Jeff asks his girlfriend, Gayle, early on in Marijuana Valley, a book-length work of non-fiction narrative by Crash Barry that celebrated its launch earlier this month.

Why the clunky descriptor? Because the book is the product of journalism, of memory, of creativity. It’s a true story, for sure, and yet it reads like a novel. It’s based off hundreds of hours of interviews with people who were super-stoned during both the events themselves and the interviews. It’s like a version of the truth that’s fun to read — but difficult to categorize.

And what’s Jeff’s plan? It’s early 2010 and he wants to take advantage of the recently passed medical marijuana law. He wants to grow weed — for use and sale as medicine — and lots of it. He wants to get a crew together on his farm in the rolling hills of ‘Marijuana Valley’ in Western Maine, where they’ll all register as caregivers and grow primo ganja, out in the open. “Thanks to the change in the law, the market for legal marijuana was about to explode,” we learn from Jeff’s perspective. “For once in his life, he was poised to make money.”

What follows is the madcap tale of the grow season, told through the eyes of Jeff, Gayle, and several others who bounce through their orbit, including the poor hippies “hired” (on promises alone) to help on the farm. The dialogue is realistic and expletive-ridden; the day-to-day stresses are constant. Spoiler alert: Copious amounts of weed are smoked.

Presented as one flowing narrative, without chapters, this is both a celebration and an exposé of what it means to be a pot farmer in Maine, where marijuana is one of the largest cash crops. Or maybe only of what it means to be these particular pot farmers, because one gets the sense that perhaps every band of growers, on every farm, would be as eccentric, unreliable, and, like, ridiculous.

Nothing about the project comes easy, not installing the fence nor adjusting to communal living. Jeff fucks shit up relentlessly, and is just as dogged about defending his mistakes as he is in making them. This almost aggressive cluelessness stands in stark contrast with the methodical approach of Robert, a professional grower who plays a strong supporting role in Marijuana Valley. Barry clearly relishes the juxtaposition of these men, as evidenced in this passage, at a music festival:

“Most noticeable was Robert. Never would’ve guessed the dude was a dancer. Rooster watched, gape-mouthed, as the marijuana farmer leaped, his heels kicked up and back, then dropped low to the floor and flipped onto his back, spinning like an old-school break-dancer.

“Then Rooster spotted Jeff. In contrast to the fluid crowd around him, Jeff’s dancing was robotic, especially when moving his arms. With eyes squinted shut, a big grin on his face and his head slowly rolling back and forth, Rooster would’ve thought the dude was retarded if he didn’t know otherwise.”

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