What happened in Adelanto, California is in many ways a classic American story. Wanting to transform a declining prison town into a thriving place, it turned to the country’s other biggest commodity: marijuana. But in other ways, Adelanto’s story is unique, full of unexpected twists and people who defy self-made stereotypes.
in a new podcast series Dream Town: Adelanto Crooked Media’s David Weinberg delves into what happened when a new member of parliament helped the city legalize cannabis production, and chronicles the impact of what happened next.
In the middle of the Mojave Desert, on the land of the Vanyume indigenous people, lies the small city of Adelanto. Home to about 32,000 people, its name comes from the Spanish word for “advanced.” Over the years, this has been the norm. The town was founded in his 1915 by Earl Holmes Richardson, the inventor of the Hot Point electric iron. Surrounded by magnificent orchards fed by the nearby Mojave River, Adelanto was designed to be a retreat, a place of growth and abundance for veterans’ recuperation.
However, the veterans proved unwilling to live in the far reaches of the desert, and the river began to dry up, making Adelanto less fertile and desirable than ever before. When the Great Depression arrived and further destroyed the city, the city attempted its first significant changes. In many ways it foreshadowed the story at the heart of the city. city of dreams. California became home to army bases and in the 80s used the drug war to build numerous prisons across the state. By 2008, Adelanto had three such facilities, one of which later became the state’s largest immigration detention center.
For a while, this kept the city alive, but it had little further effect and people grew fed up with it. So in 2014, someone decided to do something about it. A quirky character named John “Bug” Woodward, a man with long hair and a handlebar beard who wears a MAGA hat in his Twitter profile picture and has pledged to legalize marijuana in the city. and ran for city council. He won, and Adelanto actually became the first city in Southern California to legalize cannabis.
David Weinberg was intrigued by this new development and went to Adelanto to write several short stories. “I interviewed every city council member … and within a year some of the people I interviewed were arrested,” he says.
Things initially seemed to be going well, but as soon as the bill was passed, painted Bentleys were seen driving around town, scouting for potential assets, among them Bob Marley. Also included were celebrity investors such as his son, Kaimani Marley, B-Real and Tommy Chong. Others were also interested. Land was cheap, profit margins were huge, and city prosperity seemed to reach unprecedented highs.
But all this charm was offset by the elementary and often childish nature of the Adelanto City Council. In one podcast episode, an elected official was heard arguing with a man in a clown costume. This he is not a one off. He attends Congress in the same outfit every time. The council began to denounce him, saying that they could not take him seriously. This feels like a valid criticism, but one of our members also sincerely said: But I’m not a clown. Consensus was heard about this, but then it boils down to whether it’s fair to pass a dress code that discriminates against professional clowns who come to meetings after a day of honest work.
It’s comedic moments like this that shatter a serious tale of misguided authority and power failings. These moments sprinkled throughout his storytelling guide our understanding of small-town politics and the surprising nature of local government. In doing this, Weinberg creates the perfect backdrop for the astonishing tale of corruption that follows.
After the initial explosion of investment prospects in Adelanto, everything fell apart. Suspicions of corruption soon surfaced. These were related to city council members allegedly taking bribes to pass legalized marijuana zone bills to benefit certain individuals and businesses.After the sting operation, the FBI arrested In November 2017, city councilor and pastor Jermaine Wright was arrested on bribery and attempted arson charges. He was found guilty at trial in June 2022 and sentenced to five years in federal prison.
Of all those involved, his case is the most extraordinary. After he was caught trying to commit insurance fraud, he essentially tipped off to an FBI informant and, most bizarrely, demanded that he be tortured to death. He doesn’t have to appear in court because he has amnesia. But at the beginning of the series, Wright, in a recording recorded before his arrest, discusses his morality around voting for cannabis legalization because of his family background and his role as a pastor. I can hear him talking about the conflict of interest. He sounds sincere, calm, and thoughtful. It’s an ironic stroke of genius that he then morphs into the central character of what Weinberg describes as “a plot ripped from the pages of a Coen brothers movie.”
Wright wasn’t the only official arrested. In 2021, the FBI arrested former Adelanto mayor Richard Allen Carr on bribery and wire fraud charges.The podcast features a famous weed reporter Amanda Chicago Lewis. When asked if what happened in Adelanto was unusual, the weed-growing expert simply replied, “No, this kind of rot happens everywhere and all the time.” The difference, she concluded, was that they were caught. “In Adelanto, people who were terribly stupid were committing corruption.”
Part of the reason corruption occurs in the first place is the illegality of federal weed cultivation. Weinberg explains that if you went to the city council to ask for permission to open a business and were offered to bribe a city council member, it would make sense for him to report it to the FBI. But when it comes to cannabis, nobody wants the FBI involved. “The time is ripe for this kind of corruption to flourish,” he says. “City leaders know it.”
His speculation about what happened in Adelanto is that perhaps the city administrators had a conscience and saw what was going on around them and tipped off to federal authorities. is. “Local governments need whistleblowers like this because the manager of that city could have gotten a tax cut, but he was right and he was fired in the end.” says Weinberg.
nevertheless city of dreams This podcast is about political corruption, but this podcast is also someone else’s story. She’s the one who gets introduced early on until a few episodes, without realizing she’s the real star of the show.She lived in Adelanto for many years after Mr. Wright was arrested and automatically lost her seat in Congress. Steve Vonna Evans I decided to run for my seat.
Already skeptical of power, she had had her children wrongfully abducted twice by Children and Family Services. It was a shocking moment in her life, but it was also an uplifting moment. “She stopped trusting the institutions around her,” Weinberg said, but her distrust encouraged rather than disempowered her. Her resolve to eliminate corruption and provide better representation to Adelanto residents was firm after she felt something suspicious was going on in parliament. In 2018 she won the seat. In many ways, this podcast is her story of trying to fix a broken system.
At the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, city of dreams Evans, who premiered in the audio section, was as candid as the podcast is about her views on the city she calls home and the people who run it. She’s funny, sharp, outspoken, and you’ll want to be her best friend in no time. In a world where politicians rarely represent the best interests of their voters, especially in the face of corruption in Adelanto, Evans stands out as a conscientious and purposeful man of power dedicated to improving the lives of his communities. . This is a podcast about what happened when the city council took up the legal marijuana industry and got severely burned, but there is hope for a better future and how we can all participate in making it happen. It is also a story about
Dream Town: Adelanto Listen on all podcast platforms.