CANNABIS by Martin Booth


A History
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An investigation of the culture of hemp, the most widely distributed hallucinogenic on Earth.

The cannabis industry is huge, certainly. It is a major crop worldwide, surpassing, for example, logging in British Columbia. It is farmed in basements everywhere. Hemp regularly makes the happy trek from Tangier and Nepal, Kabul and Amsterdam, Jamaica, Bombay and Brooklyn in the forms of marijuana and hashish. Hemp can be used for food, fuel, and fiber, but novelist Booth’s (A Very Private Gentleman, Jan. 2004, etc.) wide-ranging report concentrates on the fun many derived from Mary Jane and hash. It can be traced back in the day of our Neolithic forbears, the classical civilizations of Greece, Rome, and China. Indians and Arabs used cannabis in one form or another and the eating or smoking of it blossomed in England and America. Thomas Wedgwood tried it and Louisa May Alcott featured the stuff in a story. It was used, notes Booth, by Satchmo, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Keith Richards, Robert Crumb, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and many, many others, including the fictional Dr. Fu Manchu. Difficulties increased a couple of generations ago with the onslaughts of head federal narc Harry J. Anslinger. The 20th-century war on drugs seems to be a loser, possibly because usage does not seem to be all that harmful. While he doesn’t deny some possibly allied ill effects (like crashes involving a stoned “train driver” and a high pilot), Booth tells of the scientific exaggerations repeated by the press without basis: “The war on cannabis is being fought from a concern not for public health or order . . . but for public morality.” Before reaching that conclusion, the indefatigable author presents much of the literature, mythology, horticultural science, pharmacology, political and social history, the uses and misuses of the vegetation so friendly to mankind as balm and analgesic. Along with Eric Schlosser’s Reefer Madness (2003), this could become a staple at neighborhood head shops.

Readable and comprehensive, loaded as fudge: the only hash book you’ll ever need.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-32220-8
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2004


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