Weed Reading

Weed Reading
Posted by CN Staff on March 13, 2004 at 08:17:26 PT
By Jessica Warner
Source: Globe and Mail 
When I first got this assignment, I cringed. I had read enough of the literature on marijuana to know that it is truly awful. On the one side, you have such howlers as Emily F. Murphy's Black Candle, published in 1922 and based, I am sorry to report, on a series of articles appearing in Maclean's magazine. "Persons using marijuana," we read, "smoke the dried leaves of the plant, which has the effect of driving them completely insane." Ms. Murphy was being her usual understated self. But this much is true: Prolonged exposure to the drug can have potentially fatal effects on the brain's irony receptors.
Everybody is at risk, the people who hate marijuana just as much as the people who sing its praises. Among the latter is Jonathon Green, author of Cannabis (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002). He informs us, just a little too defensively, "I have written or compiled 50-plus books, lived with one partner for more than 25 years and I write dictionaries, a task that is particularly demanding of what one might term the 'mental filing cabinet.' " The same author goes on to give instructions about how to grow marijuana. "Don't, of course, try this at home," he adds.Tee hee! Another aficionado has something very important to tell us: "Morocco is part of the Arab world." This astonishing revelation is to be found in Brian Preston's Pot Planet (Grove Press, 2002). One wonders whether Faulkner would have gotten that Nobel Prize if he had been a stoner and not a lush.One of the biggest problems with the literature is that almost all of it has been written by people who lived through the sixties and seventies. This is not a moral failing -- far from it -- but it does mean that what they have to say is almost always frozen in time. Suffice it to say that the culture has changed dramatically since then, and with it, the meanings that people attach to marijuana. This was brought home in a study done several years ago at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. We were conducting focus groups with high-school students, and one of the questions that we asked was whether they or their friends shared marijuana. In almost every group, the answer was the same (no), as was the explanation: "More for me." So much for the image of hippies passing a joint around a circle. That said, I won't even bother to recommend a book that does justice to the current marijuana scene. This is because there is no such book. Of course, if you are feeling nostalgic, you are welcome to read Marianne Faithfull's autobiography (Cooper Square Press, 2000).My top choice is Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence (Linde- smith Center, 1997). The book is surprisingly readable (it helps that it's short), and if its authors, Lynn Zimmer and John P. Morgan, are just a little too gaga over ganja, their findings stand as a warning against assuming that all of the research on the topic is scientific. This caveat is especially true of studies funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Washington, D.C. Of course, Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts was itself funded in part by the Lindesmith Center, which is dedicated to establishing "new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights and a just society in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more." I do not say this to knock the Lindesmith Foundation. On the contrary. I am openly sympathetic to its goals. But in this as in any other study that someone else funds, caveat lector.A book by Leslie Iversen, The Science of Marijuana (Oxford University Press, 2000) covers much the same ground as Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts. It is slightly more detailed (warning: it contains the odd chart plus illustrations of chemical compounds) but it is nonetheless accessible. It is also rather more balanced. If Zimmer and Morgan are to be believed, marijuana has practically no effects (why then, do people love it so?); Iversen, by contrast, neither discounts nor exaggerates its effects. This is, in fact, the book that I recommend that parents give their teenagers. Assuming that your kids read it, they will probably lose all interest in pot. (I am reminded of Why You Feel the Way you Do or You and Your Changing Body or whatever book it was that I was issued in high-school biology.) And finally, there are almost too many books about the history of marijuana.None rise to the level of the newest spate of commodity histories. The reason is simple enough: Very few of us are passionate about cod or coal or salt or potatoes. Not so for the people who write about marijuana. But if I must recommend a book, it is Cannabis: A History (Doubleday, 2003). Its author, Martin Booth, previously wrote a history of opium. Cannabis is perhaps not Booth's best effort (for whatever reason, marijuana does not seem to bring out the best in writers), but he does manage to cover a lot of ground, with several pages on the drug's unhappy history in Canada. In my simplicity, I had some problems with the book's semantics. Why, for example, are the people who oppose marijuana "capitalists," but the people who grow and distribute it "entrepreneurs"? But I can certainly agree with his conclusion: As the kids (used to) say, it's time for everyone to "get real." Until that time, we are left with a literature that takes itself and its topic just a little too seriously.Jessica Warner is a research scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She is the author of Craze: Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason and John the Painter: Terrorist of the American Revolution.Note: As the grow-op industry continues to grow, Jessica Warner looks at the literature of the most popular drug.Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)Author: Jessica WarnerPublished: Saturday, March 13, 2004 - Page D19 Copyright: 2004 The Globe and Mail CompanyContact: letters globeandmail.caWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #6 posted by escapegoat on March 14, 2004 at 15:29:36 PT
Let her know how you think...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by Virgil on March 14, 2004 at 04:20:25 PT
Pitiful. Just pitiful.
I am not sure what her assignment was exactly, but I find the article an embarassment to decent work. If it was to recommend books, Dr. Russo has put up his recommendations here and would be better than whatever this person was harping on. If I were given the task of reporting on books on the subject of Miracleplant, I would call Jack Herer and ask him his favorite books. I would call people like Richard Cowan and Ed Rosenthal and Nol Van Schaik and Marc Emery and Keith Stroup and others and ask them for their top three books. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by ron on March 13, 2004 at 17:21:05 PT
Snobby Researcher Moonlights as Presstitute
"When I first got this assignment, I cringed."Me too, Jessica, while I was reading your condescensions."That said, I won't even bother to recommend a book that does justice to the current marijuana scene. This is because there is no such book."I think "The Black Candle" still gives us primary insight into the motivations of the drug worriers - scapegoating groups to explain economic and social problems. What a disdainful comment. "And finally, there are almost too many books about the history of marijuana."If that was true Jessica, it would offset the too few references to Harry Anslinger in the nation's newspapers? "Until that time, we are left with a literature that takes itself and its topic just a little too seriously."And with journalists who, to their shame, have not taken it seriously enough. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Patrick on March 13, 2004 at 10:51:32 PT
Ouch, my irony receptors hurt!
Very few of us are passionate about cod or coal or salt or potatoes. Not so for the people who write about marijuana. Perhaps Jessica that is because choosing to consume cod or coal or salt or potatoes doesn't result in asset forfeiture, handcuffs, jail time, and loss of education benefits as it does for cannabis? If our freedom to eat hash browns for breakfast were as threatened as our freedom to smoke a bowl with chemotherapy or a good movie, then this site of very passionate commentators would be called instead of cannabisnews! If you read this site and I doubt that you do I agree with E_J it's a personal insult. Why stop with cannabis, go and insult people who prefer white refined sugar to brown sugar?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by goneposthole on March 13, 2004 at 09:25:27 PT
phony baloney propaganda
with disdainful disinterest. Had she smoked some cannabis and then wrote her words of writ, she would have been able to concentrate on her assignment and quit cringing.Relax, Ms. Warner, it's just a plant.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on March 13, 2004 at 09:08:49 PT
No explanation?
Fine, I will take that personally.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment