GRASS ROOTS: Marijuana in America Today by Albert Goldman

GRASS ROOTS: Marijuana in America Today

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Journalists writing about drug smugglers may be as numerous as the smugglers themselves, and the stories are sounding familiar. Latest to make the obligatory trek to Colombia--""land of violence and heavy vibes""--is former jazz critic and biographer of Lenny Bruce, Albert Goldman, who seems to relish his unsavory visit, while periodically reminding us (and himself) that he is just a visitor. ""I began this study of the marijuana culture with a very blank if not a genuinely open mind,"" he assures us early on, and in describing an encounter with hashish brownies, he recites: ""Professor Albert Goldman, A.M. Chicago, 1951; Ph.D., Columbia, 1961; Phi Beta Kappa; Who's Who in the East--the whole schmeer--rides to a drug clinic in an ambulance, tongue in hand."" Goldman's book reflects a similar dual personality, alternating between tales of the drug world and pedantic explanations of the history of marijuana and hemp; and the geography of Colombia. Best is the section on New York City--the Central Park West doorman whose tenants ""buy all the dope he can lay his hands on,"" and the jungle of 250 marijuana plants growing in a tenement basement. Goldman discusses federal drug enforcement (but Larry Sloman, Bureau of Narcotics head for more than 30 years, has written his own book), and coastal smuggling--covered recently by journalist Hank Messick in Of Grass and Snow (p. 497). Also reminiscent of Messick is Goldman's warning about ""hard-core gangsters"" taking over drug-dealing from young adventurers. But Goldman's final plea for legalization takes us by surprise after his opening claim that ""decriminalization is neither practical nor morally tolerable."" Repetitious, unless you've missed the others; and self-important, unless you're keen on Goldman.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row