by David Downs
Funny, naughty, and hyper-contemporary, hard-boiled summer paperback Baked follows Miro, breeder of hit marijuana strain Elephant Crush, as he wins the High Times Cannabis Cup and ends up shot in a gangland dispensary dispute. Los Angeles novelist Mark Haskell Smith releases Baked — his fourth book — this Fall on the Black Cat imprint of Grove/Atlantic press. Below, the 53-year-old screenwriter and professor talks with Legalization Nation about the wild world of million-dollar marijuana strains, literary research in Amsterdam, notorious Los Angeles gangbangers, and Prop 19. [Edited for space and clarity. Pt. 1 of 5]
Legalization Nation: Baked peaks into this world of breeders crisscrossing the globe looking for million-dollar strains that get deified by the High Times Cannabis Cup. Tell me about researching such a book.
Mark Haskell Smith: When I first found out about the Cannabis Cup, the fact that such a thing even existed I thought was really fun. I thought this could be a really good arena to explore, so I just started reading about it in High Times and I knew some pot dealers and they told me they could source strains that had won so I could try them, and when I tried them it was not like any sort of marijuana I've ever smoked before. It was just like its own different drug.
I really got more interested in it and started reading whatever I could about it and ultimately I just went to the Amsterdam Cannabis Cup just to see what was going on. I was there for a little over a week just last year. I'd already been working on the book and talking to to indoor growers, but to really experience that stuff you have to go there. So I kind of faked it in the first draft — and actually faked it pretty well — but then after I went I came back and did a big revision and made it as accurate as I could.
Legalization Nation: So you tried the winning Super Lemon Haze?
Mark Haskell Smith: Oh, yes.
Legalization Nation: So do you see any trends emerging in California?
Mark Haskell Smith: If you go abroad, sativas are more dominant strains, which are uplifting and give you a focus and don't give you the munchies and leave you on the couch drooling. They're for people who want to do stuff and those are harder to find here I think you'll see more and more of that. That's the stuff that — when I smoke — I like to smoke.
The stuff that's going on in California is just as exciting as what's going in Amsterdam, and if anything the two different cultures are really influencing each other. Californians, we're really big on Kushes and more indica strains and in Amsterdam they're really big on sativa strains, so we're seeing them getting a little more indica and purple-colored stuff. The dispensary guys are predicting a big sativa explosion here in the next three years. They're kind of cross-pollinating.
It's all getting more and more diversified. It's really interesting. The Green House guys, they own four coffeeshops in Amsterdam and if you ask them, 'How did you come up with Super Lemon Haze?' and they'll say, 'We found if we put anything with citrus flavor on it, people liked it.' I was like, 'You basically focus-grouped it?' and they were like, 'Yeah. Absolutely.'
Legalization Nation: Will we see the death of low-grade then?
Mark Haskell Smith: Well, someone said to me, 'There'll always be Charles Shaw.' There'll be $2 joints still somewhere.