The Great Quarantine of 2020 has allowed me the time to go back and check out some podcasts that I had never had the chance to get around to, which has been incredible. I have been able to discover podcasts that I heard were great, but just never had the time to add into the fold. That said, my new audio addiction comes in the form of a brand new podcast that dropped in August of 2020. The Syndicate is an exploration of one of the US’s largest marijuana trafficking organizations.
There are a number of things that making The Syndicate fascinating. To start, let’s talk about the host, Chris Walker. Walker is an award-winning freelance journalist based out of Denver, Colorado. His work can be found in publications like The Atlantic, Playboy, Vice, and many others. Most recently, he was a staff writer for Denver’s alternative weekly, Westword – where his specialty was long-form stories. He has done extensive work on investigative pieces about immigration detention, police surveillance, and even a deep dive on Denver’s LSD scene in the 60’s. With that kind of resume, Walker is the perfect host for this tour into the black market marijuana underworld.
This story of The Syndicate first broke in 2014 when the DEA kicked down the doors of 32 participants in this illegal smuggling ring in the Denver area. When you first read some of the details of the case, I assumed that these were 32 fairly uninteresting people that were a part of this ring with someone likely running things at the top. These 32 people weren’t details to Walker. They are 32 stories that Walker thought needed to be told, and he does so in an incredibly effective manner.
Make no mistake either, a lot of time and work goes into the quality of reporting that Walker conducts on The Syndicate. Because the Colorado government was so tight-lipped on details, Walker had to research hundreds of hours of interrogation tapes, which are applied in the podcast and make you feel like you are in the interrogation room with the suspects. To give you a sense of the depth Walker went through to familiarize himself with the case material just listen to the first episode. It starts with Walker preparing to jump out of a plane at 14,000 ft of elevation with The Syndicate kingpin.
The Syndicate is a wonderfully researched and produced 8-part series. Listeners will hear stories of buried cash, armed robberies, federal agents, and wild parties. Each episode clocks in around the 45-minute mark, so you can give your Netflix account a break and binge The Syndicate on your favorite podcast service.