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Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  442 ratings  ·  97 reviews
In the vein of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief and Deborah Feldman's Unorthodox, journalist Emily Brady journeys into a secretive subculture--one that marijuana built.

Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier

Say the words "Humboldt County" to a stranger and you might receive a knowing grin. The name is infamous, and yet the place, and its inhabitants, have been nearl
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by Grand Central Publishing
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Up until I started this book I wasn’t even aware that the leaf isn’t the part of the plant that people smoke so I am maybe not the right person to trust when it comes to my opinion of Humboldt. I am truly an ....

I’m also someone who digs tales of living off the grid and criminal lifestyles and the drug trade and ocassionally vigilante justice. And mainly I’m someone who binged Murder Mountain and wanted to know more about the Emerald Triangle. When I say I wanted more let me be clear that I
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a solid three-star read, but it gets an extra star for being about a subject that is particularly close to my heart. As a Humboldt native who grew up relatively insulated from the county's ubiquitous illegal marijuana production, I became increasingly interested in the subject as I got older and realized what a huge role pot plays in the local economy. This book is an interesting glimpse into the lives of growers and normal citizens whose lives are tied to the local drug trade. I grew u ...more
Bill Brewer
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Northern California has always been a big and mysterious piece of the country to me. Loggers, fishermen, students, shop owners all wrestling something out of this beautiful country. It is surprisingly rugged and remote much more so then Oregon Coast where I have lived in the past. I was down there recently and recalled all of the information that had been subconsciously been entering my mind over the years about marijuana and pulled off the main road to drive through Garberville. It did not take ...more
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was initially interested because of my close proximity to the lifestyle of growing pot here, the book ended up being too tedious for my attention span. Every October we are inundated with the constant thick (and sickening) odor of ripening bud. Trimigrants are everywhere at this time the world of growing pot is a part of living in Northern California. What I did read was interesting but evidently bored me, nothing new for me. Perhaps for someone unfamiliar with the pot growing world, it would ...more
Emily Brady's study of marijuana culture focuses on Humboldt County, part of California's Emerald Triangle where a great deal of pot has been grown in the past few decades. Most of the book involves the time period just prior to the first legalization push in Cali; her book illuminates the issue from several points of view, ranging from an old-school grower facing competition from the more high-yielding indoor farms, through a social worker and a police officer to a man who lives on the bleeding ...more
Jun 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Beginning in the sixties a lot of people joined the ‘Back to the Landers’ in an effort to live closer to the earth and ‘be the change’ that they wished to see in the world. For many in Humboldt County, under the beauty and grandeur of the Redwoods in the wilds of Northern California, this meant growing marijuana for a living.

Through a narrative of investigative journalism, Emily Brady illustrates the people and struggles of this relatively unique area through they eyes of its residents. While sh
Julie Mickens
How some 1970s back-to-the-landers accidentally founded a marijuana empire in the redwoods: "Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier" by Emily Brady.

A lot of the early growers (late 60s-70s-80s) were back-to-landers, at first just growing for their own personal use. But they quickly found that profits on a relatively small number of plants paid a lot better than normal farm and timber crops, and more than jobs in town, too -- sometimes enough to subsidize their whole project/lifestyle. A
David Ward
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: drugs, non-fiction
Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier by Emily Brady (Grand Central Publishing 2013) (338.17379) is an interesting tale about the state of present-day cannabis farming in Northern California to provide a supply of marijuana for the medical marijuana market. I have no way to judge the accuracy of her information, and it's not really important anyway. When this book was published (in 2013), the need for a steady stream of cannabis to supply the California medical marijuana trade truly mad ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very readable book about the cannabis industry in Humboldt County, CA, mostly told through the lives of four differently involved people: Mara, an aging hippie, part of those who "started it all" with the back to land movement of the '70s; Bob, a Sheriffs officer, who just spins his wheels trying to enforce an the un-enforceable law against the growing; Crockett, a cog in the commercial growing industry; Emma, who "escaped" the cycle of death and arrest among children of growers throug ...more
Beverly J.
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Having lived this life I was intrigued. It's fairly accurate, it was indeed a tromp down memory lane. My only fault with it is that it was so dry, I've read more exciting newspaper articles. It was choppy and lacked any continuity. ...more
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really fascinating look at a community on the brink of dynamic change. Reads like fiction, but with all the interesting details only nonfiction can provide. A quick and thought-provoking read!
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very engaging read that draws you in immediately with a colorful cast of characters... but it's all strictly nonfiction! Strongly recommended, for advocates, opponents, and everyone in between. ...more
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a fun and light read yet an excellent account of Humboldt's marijuana culture told through the life stories of four characters. I highly recommend it. ...more
Andy Caffrey
I find a lot of books interesting, but I actually enjoyed this book about my town and neighbors. The author spent a year in SoHum, but I was probably the only person who didn't meet the author.

A book like this is usually vulnerable to subjects rejecting how they are portrayed, and since this book is ten years old, I've forgotten if the author pissed off anyone back then. So I won't address those possible weaknesses except to mention that one of the characters, EZ Out, is someone I see almost eve
Ryan Ostrove
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a topic that has been very close to my for basically my entire life and ive always found it incedibly fascinating that the history of this industry is so violent even though its products bring so much joy, but i guess that can be related to basically any big business. This is a very readable book about the cannabis industry in Humboldt County, CA, mostly told through the lives of four differently involved people: Mara, an aging hippie, part of those who "started it all" with the back to ...more
Jessica Raya
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of meeting Emily Brady a few months ago and knew instantly that this was a non-fiction writer whose book I had to read. I expected Humbolt to be smart and well-written. What I didn't expect was to be thoroughly captivated by these people and this place, so much so in fact that I'd devour the story over a weekend. Partial credit goes to the intriguing subject matter (having grown up in British Columbia, where the scent of pot is as ubiquitous as Lululemon leggings, even I had m ...more
Loran Posey
Jul 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: have
I picked this book up while visiting Humboldt County in 2021. While the book is a little dated (it was written before marijuana was legalized in California), I enjoyed learning about the history of Humboldt and what it used to be before marijuana was mainstream.

The author follows the stories of a handful of individuals who each represent a different aspect of the marijuana industry in Northern California back before weed was legal: an old hippie, a young businessman, a local who went away to co
Jan 05, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2022
Would have given this a 3.5 stars. I bought this in Humboldt when visiting my brother. Love the area and as a person who does research in substance use, this was a natural pick for me. Tells the story of marijuana growth and culture that rose in Humboldt county through the stories of 4 people who lived there. The context was the transition to medical marijuana legalization and the perspectives of folks about full legalization at a time when it was going on the ballot. I found the personal storie ...more
Kami Weeks
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Held my interest, but very similar in content to the Netflix series "Murder Mountain." To her credit, Brady focuses on the toll marijuana cultivation takes on family, culture, and society - most importantly how it affects the children of the pot growers. Teaching children to blatantly lie and cover up for their parents' illegal activities is extremely damaging and erodes any sense of personal responsibility or ethics. ...more
Sarah Beck
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a cannabis user and advocate for half my life, I devoured this book. I love that it flowed like a story, getting me invested in each of the four characters it focused on. I’ve always wanted to see Humboldt, and even after watching the Murder Mountain documentary, find the history of that part of the country to be fascinating and wonderful. I really liked Emily Brady’s writing style and enjoyed being transported beyond the ‘Redwood Curtain’.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. What an incredible insight into such a taboo subject. Brady has really captured the personal and human side to the marijuana trade. It tells like a sequence of separate stories that all intertwine to paint a delicate picture that leaves the reader with so many questions and an alternate view of this often negatively cast subject.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting

Humboldt told the story of the marijuana industry in an off the grid community. The book shares the perspective of a variety of Humboldt residents with different roles in the marijuana trade. This was book was informative, interesting and shared diverse perspectives from a variety of people living in the community relying on the black market marijuana growers.
Tim Schannauer
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really good read picked it up at the local library in Alaska. Follows life in humboldt county in the weed grey area process. Farmers deciding wether to go legal or continue the illegal grow. Really get the community into it. Recommend this.
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very well-written, engaging, interesting, well-researched and informative. This book answered a lot of questions and gave balanced perspectives on an often confusing topic. I learned from and appreciated this book.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting look at the economic and social impact of marijuana growing and legalization in rural Northern California.
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting essay on the marijuana economy and culture present mostly in southern Humboldt County in California. Quick, interesting read. Very topical for today’s controversies.
Nov 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, book-club
Poorly written and riddled with errors. For better writing on the actual events, read archives of the North Coast Journal
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Outdated due to the change in cannabis laws in California but interesting and informative nonetheless.
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Humboldt county, sparsely-populated, green, surrounded by ancient redwood trees, is, in some ways, the epicenter of marijuana production in the United States. In the 1960s, hippies fleeing corporate greed and the government's violence and hypocrisy built communities here. Now, the place is inhabited by the families they established and, increasingly, by opportunistic businesspeople who have transformed the cultivation of marijuana from a small-time, family affair into a powerful, community-defin ...more
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Since I live in Humboldt County and I have heard a lot about this particular book, I decided to read it to become more educated about the marijuana legalization issue, which is to be on this November's ballot once again in California. The author spent years with several people in Humboldt County to immerse herself in the cannabis culture so that she could write a realistic book about the subject. She uses her interviews with four main characters: Mare, Crockett, Emma and Bob, to illustrate four ...more
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Emily Brady is the author of "Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier." A graduate of San Francisco State University and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, she began her career at an English-language newspaper in Caracas, Venezuela. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, Time, and Smithsonian, among others. ...more

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