We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


With the publication of his industry-shaking Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, journalist Eric Schlosser made a play to become the Upton Sinclair of our era, arguing that the fast-food industry produces meals that are high in undesirable pathogens and low in nutritional value. With his latest book, Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, Schlosser makes a play to become, well, any of several hundred ’80s-era liberal journalists rankling at the legislative puritanism brought about by the Reagan revolution. Only in small measure about marijuana, Reefer Madness exposes the social and fiscal costs of keeping huge segments of the American economy illegal—or only quasi-legal. Schlosser confines his drug-reform thoughts to the sweet-smelling weed (avoiding other street drugs, to which most of his arguments are equally applicable), discussing the dubious justice of long, third-strike terms for minor grass infractions, as well as the cost of both enforcing such laws and building more and more prisons to contain offenders. But the bulk of the book examines human-rights violations in the United States connected to selective enforcement of laws against employing illegal migrant workers and the “morality”-driven legislation that keeps our nation’s huge porno industry largely untaxed and operating on the fringes of society. Though Schlosser is right on all of his points, there is a difference between being right and being interesting: Most of the ideas in this book have played across op-ed pages for decades. Schlosser speaks at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Jandos Rothstein)