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WEED THE PEOPLE

THE FUTURE OF LEGAL MARIJUANA IN AMERICA

Will the rest of the country follow suit? To judge by Barcott’s useful book, you’d do well not to bet against it.

Journalist Barcott (The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird, 2008, etc.) goes on a long, strange trip to document the changing fortunes of Big Dope.

Fortunes is the operative word: There’s plenty of money to be made in the marijuana business, and there are countless variations that can be found in the industry trade shows the author pops in on at various points in this engaging book. As he observes, it was the days of Richard Nixon that saw both a sharp upswing in prosecution for drug offenses and a loosening on the edges of various hemp-related crimes. Even in places such as North Carolina, not everyone bought Nixon’s call for the death penalty for dealers, and several states “passed laws that made the possession of small amounts of pot legal or, at worst, a minor infraction.” The pattern holds today: In Barcott’s two case studies of Washington state and Colorado, possession and use of pot are legal, and the federal-state divide looms very wide—even as the public perception of marijuana is radically changing, such that in 2013, 58 percent of the respondents to a Gallup poll favored legalization. No stranger to on-the-ground research, the author secured a medical marijuana card, and he takes readers on a grand tour of dispensaries, potions, tinctures” and his own blown mind: “When you absorb more than 40 years of messages about the horrors of marijuana, walking into a dispensary where it’s all on display, without shame or fear, can be an utterly disorienting experience.” Yet, silly title aside, Barcott’s book is entirely earnest. As the author notes, the feared explosion in crime has not happened in those test-case states, but its opposite has, while instances of racially based injustice and needless prosecutorial expenses have fallen dramatically.

Will the rest of the country follow suit? To judge by Barcott’s useful book, you’d do well not to bet against it.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61893-140-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Time Inc. Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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