Reefer Madness is about underground business, an economy best described, according to Schlosser, as "where economic activities remain off the books." A study in 1994 showed that approximately 9.4% of America's gross domestic product came from underground business, and was thus unreported. That's a total of $650 billion, tax-free.
Interesting statistics like those should come as no surprise to Schlosser fans. He is a master at arranging facts and interview footage into a stream of nonfiction prose that tells its own story. Schlosser rarely editorializes, rarely comments on his information, but rather just lays it out and lets the reader decide what to do with it. In Madness, we learn about the marijuana trade, and the outrageous penalties imposed on those caught being involved with it, and we go behind the scenes at the surprisingly lucrative strawberry fields in California, where illegal immigrant labor exploitation is rampant and sickening. We also get a fascinating, almost obsessively thorough look into the pornography industry.
Reefer Madness is a quieter, less shocking book than Fast Food Nation, though not for being any less readable, but because its subject matter is not such a basic part of everyday life as fast food. Most of us are not involved with underground business, and so it will be easier to remain detached from its ideas, even if they are interesting to read about. In this country you have to hit us where it counts, in our fat guts and in our pop culture, to have a real impact. Schlosser misses with the uppercut this time around, but Hell, uppercuts are tough to land. He'll score one again soon, and in the meantime his jab's as sharp as ever. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS