Acceptance of cannabis has come a long way since this delightful novel, The Everweed State, was published. The post first ran in 2014.
Dude, you gotta read this book! About a year ago I had the great pleasure of working on The Everweed State (subtitled E Cannabis Unum; how cool is that!) with author Rebecca Baumgartner, who had a good deal of help with research from her husband, Tracy. This entertaining—and timely—novel has now been published, and I couldn’t be any happier for this couple, among the nicest people with whom I’ve worked during my centuries of coaching and editing.
The “state” in the title is Washington—home to Becky and Tracy—one of the first states to legalize the use and sale of recreational marijuana. It is here that we first meet eccentric genius Sam VanDerhout, who lives in an elaborate treehouse on his own private island in the Puget Sound. Sam grows some amazing weed, even a strain that might contain the properties to cure cancer. (He harbors his secrets in a sea cave beneath the island.) A Big Pharmaceutical company would gladly hand him a check with a prime number followed by lots of zeros on it, but Sam, having been burned in the past, tells them no and says that such a strain doesn’t even exist.
Big Pharma sends one of its people, gorgeous, ambitious Mackenzie Blake, to cozy up to Sam and see if she can get her hands on the formula. She does her job well, until she comes to realize that she’s falling for the guy, which sets off a major crisis of conscience—and makes for a great subplot.
Sam and his best friend, über-eccentric park ranger Marty Stout, visit the small mountain town of Lester, where the depressed logging industry has hurt the economy. When Greg Gunderson, one of the town’s many quirky characters, learns who and what Sam is, he suggests that Sam guide them in constructing a Pot Plant in order to benefit from the state’s new laws. Sam agrees, but he won’t take a dime from any of the profits. That’s the kind of guy he is.
Big Pharma hedges its bet that Mackenzie will accomplish what they want by getting nasty and sending goons to spy on Sam—also to do whatever is necessary to acquire his formula. This adds an element of suspense to the story, which, in addition to its humor and its collection of weird and endearing characters, makes The Everweed State an enjoyable, page-turning read.
Arguably my favorite chapter is the one in which the town of Lester puts on a fundraising festival called Hemp Daze. Here is just a small portion of it.
Mayor Roxanne Martin stood beneath a banner that read, Lester’s First Annual Hemp Daze, ironing out the last details of the day’s events. Sitting at the back of the meeting, Sam shook his head. He had tried to “edit” the festival’s name to Lester’s Inaugural Hemp Daze but had failed to convince anyone it was impossible to have a “First Annual” anything. He was fairly certain today would be a big, entertaining mess.
“Leila and Lena, you two have your floral booth and are helping Jeffery at the baked goods, correct?”
“Oh, yes. We’re quite ready,” Leila replied, giving Jeffrey a wink over her shoulder.
Roxanne went through every booth and event, checking each off her list. “Okay, important stuff here: Wallace and Carmen, do you have the cash box and tickets in place?” Carmen gave a wordless thumbs up.
Roxanne sighed and adjusted her glasses. “Whose idea was adding the ‘Pin the Joint on the Stoner’ game back onto the festival list?”
Simon tentatively raised his huge hand.
“Simon, I thought we had decided to defer that in favor of our chainsaw bong sculpture event.”
Sam leaned over and whispered to Mackenzie, “You should have seen the list of events before I edited them.” She laughed quietly and slid her hand into his.
“Speaking of our chainsaw sculpture event, are we ready to go with that?”
Sam winced as this and several more questionable “events” were discussed. In his opinion, the whole concept of “There’s no such thing as a bad idea” had unfortunately prevailed long past the brainstorming phase.
“Are all of the security and traffic management contingencies covered?”
Marty Stout had graciously volunteered to handle security for the event. “Every ‘t’ crossed, and ‘i’ dotted, my good mayor. Should a riot or any other form of civil disobedience come to pass, I have a couple off-duty Park Rangers on standby, ready with tranquilizer darts should the need arise.” He indicated two slightly overweight men in ranger khakis and sunglasses, who nodded back at him.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, Marty.” The mayor shook her head. “Thank you, though.”