John Robert Boone’s steadfast insistence on remaining silent while in custody in Montreal should come as little surprise to anyone who read a book published five years ago that explains how the group he belonged to came to be known as the Cornbread Mafia.
The book — A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History — details how the American fugitive and other like-minded large-scale marijuana growers in Kentucky emerged from a tightly-knit community that had been shaped from U.S. Prohibition laws, which banned the sale of alcohol from 1920 to 1933 and led many whisky producers to become moonshiners.
According to the book’s preface, author James Higdon, a former New York Times web producer, was “the first journalist subpoenaed under the Obama administration because (the book’s) main subject, Johnny Boone,” became a federal fugitive. Boone was arrested in Montreal in December.
Higdon details how Boone went from being a moonshiner during the 1960s and switched to large-scale marijuana production in the early 1970s, when the drug’s popularity soared. Boone had become so adept at growing high quality marijuana that was so popular it was referred to as Kentucky Bluegrass in High Times, an American magazine that served as a price guide for pot.
“To me, calling it Kentucky Bluegrass sounded a little too much hillbilly,” Boone told Higdon when interviewed for the book. But he decided to keep it because his brand was already widely known. “This was in the old days.”
By the mid-1980s Boone had developed a network of growers who were willing to follow him to other states after he had become too notorious in Kentucky.