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Graphic: Reeferpunk
​Fistful of Reefer is a dieselpunk, weird Western pulp novel featuring goats, guns, and the camaraderie of outcasts. Marijuana was the plan, liberty the dream, revolution the result. Viva this!
David Mark Brown’s debut novel is the first in a series he calls Reeferpunk—an alternate history that explores the ramifications of an industrial revolution sans cheap oil.
Set along the Texas-Mexico border during the waning years of the Mexican Revolution, Fistful of Reefer focuses on a group of unlikely heroes and their equally unlikely foe as they stumble upon the fringes of a cabal bent on nothing short of redrawing geopolitical boundaries and world domination.
Anticipated release of this ebook exclusive is July 31. ~ Editor
By David Mark Brown
Special to Toke of the Town
If any of you are old enough, you might remember the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial, “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” The ad ended with the tagline, “Two great tastes that taste great together.” That’s how I feel about Reeferpunk. Whether you end up preferring punk in your reefer or reefer in your punk, from now on they just gotta go together.

The term reefer, made popular by the cult-classic exploitation film Reefer Madness [1936], first appears in the consciousness of the nation in the 1930s as Harry J. Anslinger and his new Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) began to back a campaign to label Indian hemp the culprit for flappers gone wild. (It was either hemp or jazz music. And you ain’t got a thing, if you ain’t got that swing.)
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Author David Mark Brown is writing a series of alternate history “Reeferpunk” novels, “Fistful of Reefer” being the first.
​Problem: Hemp was already being labeled as the new million or even billion dollar crop in the U.S., as Popular Mechanics stated in their 1938 article. No one knows for sure, but the origins of the word “reefer” seem to derive from “grifa,” Mexican Spanish slang for marijuana at the time.
Whatever its origins, reefer (along with the term marijuana itself) created a nifty solution. Reefer = bad. Hemp = good. (Most Americans still haven’t figured out they’re the same plant.)
The very attempt to define punk as a movement is a pretty ridiculously un-punk thing to do. But whoever said I was punk? So here goes.
Punk can most simply be defined as a youth movement of the late 1970s, characterized by anti-Establishment slogans, and concerned with concepts such as rebellion, anti-authoritarianism, individualism, free thought and discontent (who knew discontent could be a concept?).
So what does reefer have to do with punk? The reefer madness era was about public fears and government agencies hanging society’s problems on a newly created drug—reefer. Prohibition had worked pretty well, but only in widening the moral divide and creating pet shop speakeasies.
Dang it all, kids were still committing wanton acts of carnality (even with colored folk!) and leaving the farm for the big city. They were still acting like rebellious, anti-authoritarian individuals. Those stinking punks.
In comes reefer to save the day. Here is a wonderful quote from Anslinger himself:
“By the tons it is coming into this country—the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms ... Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him…”
And again,
“There are 100,000 total marihuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marihuana usage. This marihuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
It was punk, via time machine, that gave birth to reefer. Discontented youth generations ago (American forerunners of punk) were rebuffed by a nation in desperate need for stability during a time of turmoil and economic depression. (Reminiscent much?)
The result was the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act that sealed the fate of both recreational and industrial uses of cannabis for the next 75 years. As a bonus, all those horny Negroes, Hispanics and jazz entertainers were either deported, fined or imprisoned. What will be the result today?
Punk culture contributes to society when it is able to see past popular scapegoats and instead demands real solutions. Reefer and immigrants weren’t the real problems in the 1930s any more than they are today.
What is? Well, how the hell and I supposed to know? I’m just a writer.
Reeferpunk, a series of alternate history novels, are my tongue-in-cheek means of posing the same questions, and having a blast while doing it.
The first book in the series, Fistful of Reefer, is a pulp featuring goats, guns and the camaraderie of outcasts. The second book in the series, Twitch and Die!, a Western plague novel, is planned for release by Christmas.