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Chronicle Mini-Book Mini-Review: A Weed Grows in Boston

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1211)

A Weed Grows in Boston: There's A Secret Next Door by Valerie Vande Panne (2024, Valerie Vande Panne, 29 pp., $12.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle)

Fifteen years there was no legal marijuana in Massachusetts, but the alternative press still thrived. Much has changed since then, but with A Weed Grows in Boston, award-winning journalist, long-time drug reformer (and drug reform critic), and old buddy of mine Valerie Vande Panne turns back the clock to revisit a different era and the result is most enchanting.

This is a very thin book, and there's a reason for that: It is a reprint of her 2009 Boston Phoenix article about "Mary Jones," a quintessential suburban soccer mom strung out on pain pills after an injury who overcame her addiction through marijuana, learned to grow her own, and then turned her green thumb to producing good weed for stoners and good medicine for the ailing. That article won awards then and is still a great read today.

Vande Panne's ability to get her subjects to open up allows readers to get a real sense of a most non-stereotypical marijuana production operation. While there is paranoia galore -- it was back when weed was illegal in the Bay State, after all -- there are no hippies, no menacing gangstas, just picket-fenced suburban quietude and a charming home filled with pot plants. Vande Panne opens a window on pot use and production in a most unexpected place by a most surprising woman.

If you want to get Mary Jones's story -- her fight with pain pills and turn to weed, her turning her medicine into a financial lifeline for her family, her giving back to the community by donating pot butter to the medically needy, and her family's acceptance of her criminal exposure -- you can read A Weed Grows in Boston in its entirety before you've finished that joint.

In an afterword, Vande Panne says she lost touch with Mary Jones shortly after the original publication of the story but that she still hears vague good things about her. That left this reader wanting to know more. Has Mary Jones become a medical marijuana mogul? Does she now own a dispensary? Has she retained her communitarian values? Is she still growing and smoking? The answers will have to await the sequel.

In the meantime, A Weed Grows in Boston is a fun and inspirational ride on the Wayback machine.

To order the book on Amazon, go here.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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