SMOKE SIGNALS by Martin A. Lee


A Social History of Marijuana--Medical, Recreational and Scientific
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Everybody must get…well, hip to the history of hemp and all the hobgoblins that made it heinous.

Thus the seeming intent of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) founder Lee’s (The Beast Reawakens, 1997, etc.) tome, a tale of “a remarkable plant that befriended our ancestors.” If that sounds a little too inauspiciously H.R. Pufnstuf, the author counters the groove with a tough Texas cop, decidedly unhip with his “jingly spurs,” who tells anyone who’ll listen that the war on drugs is a sham and scam. Smoking a doobie isn’t the worst thing a person could do, said cop avers, and Lee backs that thought up with social history aplenty, ranging from neolithic experiments down to the Kerouac-ian consumers of the Beat Era. (Of the bop jazz soundtrack of that time, the author writes, “[t]he music and the weed were fellow travelers, so to speak, joined at the juncture of hip.”) A little righteous paranoia kicks in when Lee looks at the genesis of the Harrison Act, which taxed the production and distribution of opiates. Suffice it to say that the author attributes the anti-hemp tenor to some financial interests on the part of DuPont’s “chief financial backer,” Andrew Mellon, who aimed to block a “natural alternative” to nascent Big Pharma. There’s no smoking gun there, but there’s smoke aplenty in between thick, chunky blocks of scientific lore on such matters as the “discovery of the endocannabinoid system” and claims that cannabidiol, a major constituent of the plant, “lowers glucose levels, improves insulin sensitivity, and protects the health of diabetic patients’ hearts”—and a good thing, too, for readers tempted to head down to Ben & Jerry’s for a double scoop of Cherry Garcia while taking a break from Lee’s long, earnest and sometimes plaintive text.

The author provides plenty of interesting material, but sometimes it’s laid on a little too thick. Readers will understand very quickly that pot should be legal and that it’s not the scourge that square politicos have made it out to be.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4391-0260-2
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2012


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