Obama's New War on Medical Marijuana

FEBRUARY 27, 2012
I was on the road and unable to post when ROLLING STONE (with Paul "Who's He?" McCartney on the cover) hit the stands with my homage to pulp fiction art accompanying the 'National Affairs' story on the Obama Administration's reversal of drug policy and its reactivation of a drug war against medical marijuana.  Perfectly legitimate growers and distributors are being treated as criminals and shut down regardless of their previous vetting and certifications.  State laws are being trumped by federal policy.  The state of California alone will lose billions in tax revenue collected from the sale of the medicinal pot.  An incredible waste of time and money prosecuting a phony 'war'.  I personally smell the hand of the prison industrial complex that is so firmly entrenched in government.  Without more people to put in jail for frivolous drug busts, the prisons will be unable to continue growing their jail populations and creating profit.  And, god knows, we need more cancer patients in prison.  I personally have no dog in this fight, don't like pot myself and don't smoke it, but this is an egregious and stupid exercise of federal authority.  More a bureaucratic diversion from the real problems facing our country than anything else.
The advance copy , along with some loose guidance from the editors, seemed to indicate to me that we could have a lot of fun making this illustration echo great pulp fiction art.  There are any number of books on the topic and Google is chock full of pulp magazine and comic cover images.  G-men were a particular favorite so enough good reference was compiled to get the clothing, props and colors as right as could be.  The Society of Illustrators last here had an outstanding exhibit of pulp art and it was quite an experience to see these no holds bar paintings up close.  The bravura gestures, application of brushwork, and color choices so made these images such great fun to view and learn from. 
I definitely did not want to use pen and ink for this assignment, chosing instead some thicker lined pencil work colored over with watercolors and gouache.  I worked up a couple ideas that played with a drug bust theme and with a more symbolic confrontation between the feds and the pot itself.  The final decision to go with and focus on the difference in scale between the President and the G-men vs the tiny ubiquitous pharm perscription bottle containing a Charlie Brown Christmas tree like pot plant was a good one.  All that was required was to keep the image fun and somewhat garrish and over dramatic.  There's also an affectionate nod here to the great Kurtzman/Elder team of the early MAD Magazine days in the way I approached the faces and bodies.
Once again, thanks to the folks at RS, in particular my point man, Steve Charny. 
Earliest idea. Breaking into dying grandma's house with IV's and doctor on hand.

We switched the locale to a pot pharmacy/distribution center. Had we gone with the drug bust scene I so wanted to include a nod to Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, one of my favorite strips when I was a kid. I would have made everyone Dick Tracy.

The approved sketch.

I worked this up almost entirely with flat rectangular brushes, which have slowly become my brushes of choice in many illustrations. I held back a bit from going overboard with bright primary colors.