The Marijuana Project- Brian Laslow

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The book is reported as fact based fiction. Americans will understand better than me the balance of truth and augmentation. However, the writing certainly comes across as highly informed. The Project starts with a good use of flash-forward prologue, but be warned, it is really only at the very end that this intensity of action is picked up again. But yes, there are thriller genre elements that touch this story, lots actually, although much is alluded to as possible or likely rather than shown.
The story is compulsive rather than gripping. What we really have here is an in-depth dissection of one man’s ethical morality. Sam is a very conservative ex-military prototype; working in the cutting edge of modern technology as an expert on all types of security protocols and their technical and physical implementation. The character is a family man with strong conservative Christian values that are as more white middle-class cultural than definitively religious.
Sam is driven to go against his cherished principles by taking on a client that is growing and trading medical grades of marijuana. He struggles with his conscience believes the mantra that soft drugs lead to hard ones and then quite possible the subsequent fall of society. Yet, financial greed, his passion for security and a ‘realisation’ that it is better to guard a drug factory, securing the substance, rather than let crime elements get control, allow him to embrace the job.
The book is very topical, but it isn’t really about the drug at all, rather the conscience processes of one middle aged man facing an ethical dilemma. For a time, his values look to be in danger of submergence in the process by greater issues. Sam remains variably conflicted to the end, with certain family and friendship problems regularly intruding into his purely business life. An equally good story could have been written about the ethics and security issues of banking, or alcohol production, or even the business of prostitution. Marijuana is merely the theme.
The process of securing the factory, comes to be explored in very great detail, yet always as a reader I felt detached from Sam. While the characters around him are made of consistent stuff, Sam isn’t. Too often I was left thinking that Sam just wouldn’t have done that. As such, it was hard to empathise with him. I may have had more of an affinity if the book had been written in the first person, allowing me to see through him. I felt that Sam was being manipulated to fit a security plot rather than a plot being weaved around his character. His picture needed constant readjustment, in order for me to get up to ‘speed’. Or should that be up to ‘weed’. A lot less detail and a bit more intrigue would also have helped. The interesting subject of controlling drug use among vehicle drivers comes up obliquely, adding some needed bite to Sam’s sometimes rather wishy-washy moral seesaw.
This is a very interesting book, looking at the working of industrial security through one presumably mostly fictional studying. We are concerned with one factory producing medical grades of marijuana for an inconsistently regulated, and very poorly understood market. I’m very pleased I read it. This is well crafted entertainment, that puts every dot and dash of real-life security issues in a fictional account. However, I have to say that the story is not at all what the title and early content led me to believe I might read. Both the real groups, those that always oppose recreational drug usage and those that consume recreational drugs, may be disappointed by the books content. That’s a pity, because this is a very interesting, very detailed, account, which works bit by detailed bit into convincing psychological drama. This is a compelling and provoking dissection of one man’s personality, inconsistencies granted. And yes, there are exciting, even climactic, moments.

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