A well-tempered examination of the current standing of marijuana in the United States, with important forays into its medicinal use.
Marijuana didn’t just burst on to the scene in the last century, writes Goldstein in this sanely balanced overview of the drug’s influence over the centuries. The Chinese were busy experimenting with the herb’s healing powers 5,000 years ago, and experimentation went on right up through the American Medical Association's opposition to the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, citing the plant’s “medicinal value.” Goldstein doesn’t shy away from the ideologically bigoted and racist agendas behind restrictions: “Many Anglo-Americans made associations between marijuana use, racial minorities, jazz music, and amoral behavior.” She makes her way through the mare’s-nest of federal and state laws and how they have worked counterproductively to provide access for people seeking medical marijuana (which is often low on the buzz component, THC, and high on CBD, marijuana’s primary medicinal component). Goldstein also draws a telling parallel between Prohibition and the rise of violent gang-related alcohol crimes and the horrifying cartel-controlled trade in marijuana that the war on drugs has only exacerbated. Hers is the eye of a science journalist, and she writes with levelheaded clarity.
Almost any substance can be abused; Goldstein convincingly argues that the illegalization of marijuana is increasingly looking like what happened to the baby in the bathwater. (Nonfiction. 10-16)