HEART OF DANKNESS by Mark Haskell Smith


Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup
Email this review


A personal quest for the world’s finest weed.

“Dankness,” a concept akin to  “awesome,” was first formulated by snowboarders to describe the ideal buzz from their favorite recreational drug, a notion that easily spread to other cannabis connoisseurs. In 2009, novelist, screenwriter and pleasure-seeker Smith (Writing/Univ. of California, Riverside; Baked, 2010) was sent to Amsterdam by the Los Angeles Times to cover the Cannabis Cup, a sort of Academy Awards for marijuana growers sponsored by High Times magazine since the late 1980s. The assignment (and Smith’s natural curiosity) inspired him to seek in the coffeehouses of Amsterdam and in the medical marijuana dispensaries and underground farms and grow houses in his home state of California for the strains that best illustrate the concept of dankness. A food- and wine-appreciating epicure, Smith was most attracted to strains that taste and smell good—fruity hybrids like Cup winners Lemon Silver Haze or Chocolope—as well as the psychotropic so-called “sativas,” which elevate mood, rather than the indicas, which induce stupefying couch-lock. Michael Backes, founder and curator of the exclusive Cornerstone Research Collective for medical marijuana (who incidentally Smith that every strain humans ingest is actually an indica) says the best strains are “pharmaceutical quality” and that the dopey effects of pot are due to impurities rather than the complex of psychoactive molecules, of which THC is just one, in the plant’s genome. “Anything that impairs me, I view as a side effect,” Backes says. “I want to get rid of the side effects.” Smith is an amusing and easygoing narrator with a talent for describing the sensations good weed brings on, but beneath the fun, he has a serious message: Criminalized marijuana is not good for anyone but criminals.

Witty, civilized and intelligent narcotourism.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-72054-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2012


NonfictionTO THE LAST BREATH by Francis Slakey
by Francis Slakey
NonfictionVISIT SUNNY CHERNOBYL by Andrew Blackwell
by Andrew Blackwell
NonfictionSTRAPHANGER by Taras Grescoe
by Taras Grescoe
NonfictionBEFORE THEY'RE GONE by Michael Lanza
by Michael Lanza


FictionBLOWN by Mark Haskell Smith
by Mark Haskell Smith
NonfictionNAKED AT LUNCH by Mark Haskell Smith
by Mark Haskell Smith
FictionRAW by Mark Haskell Smith
by Mark Haskell Smith


NonfictionTHE BLEAKS by Paul Illidge
by Paul Illidge
NonfictionTHE WEED RUNNERS by Nicholas Schou
by Nicholas Schou
NonfictionBURNING RAINBOW FARM by Dean Kuipers
by Dean Kuipers