Every aspiring author knows the drill: Spend months or even years working on a book proposal. Then spend more months or even years shopping it around to literary agents who, if they agree to take you on, will shop it around to publishing houses. Sometimes they get you a deal, and sometimes they don't.
But that's not the way it worked for Karin Lazarus, author of the new cookbook Sweet Mary Jane, a “cannabis-infused high-end dessert” book that came out in May and is already selling like marijuana brownies at Hempfest.
Her book had its genesis two years ago with an article in New York magazine about Sweet Mary Jane, her Boulder, Colorado, bakery, which provides cannabis edibles to more than 150 dispensaries. After gushing about her Smashing Pumpkins bars (with white chocolate and pumpkin), her walnut fantasy bars and her carrot-cake cookies, the magazine dubbed her the Martha Stewart of weed baking.
A few weeks later she got a call from a New York literary agent asking her to write a cookbook. She was so busy with her burgeoning business that she said no. But the agent persisted and within a few weeks got her a deal with Penguin Random House.
“I didn't know how to write a cookbook,” she tells L.A. Weekly. “But the editor I worked with told me how to write an outline and told me to cover certain points.”
The result features detailed recipes and luscious pictures of 75 baked treats, plenty of warnings that no one under 21 should indulge and constant reminders that edible pot takes much longer — up to two hours — to produce a high than traditional smoking methods. Her motto: “Start low. Go slow.”
From cities like Denver and L.A., with a marijuana dispensary seemingly on every corner, to the skyrocketing value of cannabis-related companies on the stock market, the once-fringe — and once-illegal — cannabis culture is going mainstream in a big way. Now the high-end book industry is joining the party.
Catherine Hiller's recently released Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir is creating such a literary buzz (sorry) with its joyful, uplifting tale of smoking pot for 50 years that The New York Times ran an excerpt before it was published. And in Weed the People, Bruce Barcott writes that he started out as a legalization skeptic, conducted an in-depth investigation to make his case and concluded that legal, well-regulated weed has had an overwhelmingly positive impact wherever it has been tried.
Some of the books try to counteract the traditionally male-dominated cannabis culture. “When it started it was primarily men who ran everything, but now we have come out of the shadows,” says Long Beach author Cheri Sicard, who in April released Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women.
Sicard, who's in her 50s, describes herself as a marijuana activist who speaks at legalization rallies and lobbies local and state governments advocating legalization. She tells L.A. Weekly that she smokes weed every day, and her book reflects a total commitment to the cannabis cause. It has 17 chapters, starting with the predictable ones, such as how to grow weed, how to cook with it and how to travel with weed without getting caught. Then there are the less predictable, such as how to get a job in the cannabis industry and having sex while high. There's a chapter called “Starring Mary Jane” that details pot references in films as well as the actresses who have publicly embraced pot smoking, from Cameron Diaz to Kristen Stewart.
“Most of the other pot books were written by and for dudes,” Sicard says. “I wanted to write one in a tone that women would respond to, that would address the stigma that women using pot have to deal with.” Indeed, Sicard has a chapter called “Marijuana Mamas: Cannabis and Parenting,” which quotes women claiming they are better parents — more focused, more playful — after smoking weed.
Other books get more business-y. Christian Hageseth — whose Big Weed: An Entrepreneur's High-Stakes Adventures in the Budding Legal Marijuana Business was published in April — is the founder of Green Man Cannabis, which has twice won the High Times Cannabis Cup, the marijuana industry's highest award for product excellence.
Though academics say the industry is worth $3 billion, Hageseth estimates it is a potentially $70 billion industry and predicts it will soon have two tiers: a high-end market supplied by artisanal growers, and a mass market controlled by Big Tobacco, Big Agriculture and Big Pharma.
Of course Big Publishing will be there every step of the way, documenting and celebrating the high life — even if it has to recruit the authors.