It’s yet another SpaceCadetz exclusive interview!! This time I present to you Ricardo Cortes, author of the very controversial children’s book on marijuana called ‘It’s Just a Plant.’ The book has landed Ricardo an interview on Bill O’Reilly’s show The Factor, and even the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy put the book on blast at a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill. SpaceCadetz takes a few minutes to get the lowdown on the book from Ricardo himself. If you’re interested in purchasing the book, click here to buy it directly from the publisher. Enjoy.
Hi Ricardo, thanks for taking the time out to talk to SpaceCadetz.com. Why don’t you take this chance to introduce yourself and tell the readers a bit about your background?
Thank you.. Well, I’m creative director of Magic Propaganda Mill [MPM], a visual design/drug war/pop media group & publishing house based in New York City. You can see us at: www.mpmill.com
So let’s get right into it. Tell us what your book is all about. What’s the storyline, who are the characters, and perhaps most importantly, what is the message behind it all?
Kids can open a bedroom door at the most inopportune moment. “It’s Just a Plant” is about a child who discovers that her parents smoke marijuana. They decide to really explain to their child what the plant is, without resorting to the propaganda that passes as “education” these days. Millions of responsible adults, including over six million parents of young children, smoke marijuana in a way that is healthy and beneficial to their lifestyle. I thought it was high time that a type of education reflected this reality. Please understand, this book does NOT endorse children using marijuana.. Grass is like sex: it can be safe and fun if practiced by educated adults, but it’s not for children. You ain’t ready!
I imagine that you get reactions from the entire spectrum of the population, from the most conservative folks to the most liberal. Can you tell us what you’ve generally seen so far? Any particularly memorable reactions?
The most heartfelt responses have been from parents who use the drug medicinally, and who have had a difficult time explaining to their children (or are tired of hiding the fact of) why they use something that has been classified as illegal and “bad.” I got a letter from David Crosby, the musician, who said he wished he had the book to explain to his son why he used the plant, instead of the child learning about it on CNN when pop was busted on nationwide television. Of course, there are those who find this book to be the Devil. To those people I humbly submit that we have the same goals: to educate our children about drugs so they can be better equipped to make smart decisions in life, and therefore be less likely to get into trouble with what’s out there.
Would you care to address your time as a former high school D.A.R.E. officer? Many kids/young adults reading this have definitely been on the receiving end of a D.A.R.E. presentation, but what is it like being the one doing the teaching and reaching out to kids?
Indeed, I was a young soldier helping wage the War on Drugs: a D.A.R.E. officer. That meant I took an oath of abstinence from “drugs” (a wholly meaningless word) and got a gold star on my college application. In most D.A.R.E. programs, it’s actually the police who are teaching the class and often simply goad kids into ratting out their friends and parents. The U.S government’s General Accounting Office concluded in 2003 that this $700 million program had “no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing youth illicit drug use. In fact, official federal “pot-education” advertisements, which propose it can lead to crime, homelessness, and teen-pregnancy, are so poor that a recent study warned that, “exposure to anti-marijuana advertising might not only change young viewer’s attitudes to more positive toward the substance, but also might directly increase risk of using marijuana.”
I read that many major publishers, large retail companies, and local libraries simply won’t touch the book. What has your strategy been to get around those problems and is it working?
The fact that we sold out the first edition in six months and are about to launch a second edition is a beautiful thing. Y’all haters were SLEEPING! We didn’t have an advertising budget.. literally zero dollars.. but people helped spread the word because they dug the project. Tell your friends! We’re still publishing this ourselves! It’s true, a lot of stores won’t touch the book, and that’s sad because bookstores should be the bazaars of free-speech and diverse thought. So, this book has been, strangely, an internet success, sold through our website. Places like MySpace also help to great lengths in letting people tell others about the story. Come be our friend and we’ll let you know what’s coming up with specials, sequels, etc. Thank you!
You collaborated with a number of artists for the book’s illustrations, including Futura and Jose Parla who are particularly well-known in the streetwear/skateboard/graffiti subcultures. What was it like working with those guys?
Several cccooolll cats out there came through on the love and let me sample their work and sprinkle it throughout the illustrations of the story. Look throughout the book and you might find work from Futura, Jose, V.C. Johnson, Toofly, Che Jen, SMARCUS, Sara Press, Joshua Humphries, Tillamook Cheddar, and others. Each edition of the story has evolved so it’s fun to work with fam and mentors alike to change it up as we go along.
Do you have any other book projects on the horizon, or any IJAP-related news you’d like to share?
Well, get the book now at www.justaplant.com before we release it worldwide this summer and it’s g-o-n-e. MPMBooks is also putting out Livingroom Johnston’s new novel (www.livingroomjohnston.com) and another children’s book the fall with Martin Perna of Antibalas/Ocote Soul/TV on the Radio. That’s what’s poppin!