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Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific

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The bestselling author of Acid Dreams tells the great American pot story—a panoramic, character-driven saga that examines the medical, recreational, scientific, and economic dimensions of the world’s most controversial plant. Martin A. Lee traces the dramatic social history of marijuana from its origins to its emergence in the 1960s as a defining force in a culture war tha The bestselling author of Acid Dreams tells the great American pot story—a panoramic, character-driven saga that examines the medical, recreational, scientific, and economic dimensions of the world’s most controversial plant. Martin A. Lee traces the dramatic social history of marijuana from its origins to its emergence in the 1960s as a defining force in a culture war that has never ceased. Lee describes how the illicit marijuana subculture overcame government opposition and morphed into a dynamic, multibillion-dollar industry. In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Similar laws have followed in more than a dozen other states, but not without antagonistic responses from federal, state, and local law enforcement. Lee, an award-winning investigative journalist, draws attention to underreported scientific breakthroughs that are reshaping the therapeutic landscape. By mining the plant’s rich pharmacopoeia, medical researchers have developed promising treatments for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, chronic pain, and many other conditions that are beyond the reach of conventional cures. Colorful, illuminating, and at times irreverent, this is a fascinating read for recreational users and patients, students and doctors, musicians and accountants, Baby Boomers and their kids, and anyone who has ever wondered about the secret life of this ubiquitous herb. Smoke Signals is the winner of the American Botanical Council's James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award for 2012


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The bestselling author of Acid Dreams tells the great American pot story—a panoramic, character-driven saga that examines the medical, recreational, scientific, and economic dimensions of the world’s most controversial plant. Martin A. Lee traces the dramatic social history of marijuana from its origins to its emergence in the 1960s as a defining force in a culture war tha The bestselling author of Acid Dreams tells the great American pot story—a panoramic, character-driven saga that examines the medical, recreational, scientific, and economic dimensions of the world’s most controversial plant. Martin A. Lee traces the dramatic social history of marijuana from its origins to its emergence in the 1960s as a defining force in a culture war that has never ceased. Lee describes how the illicit marijuana subculture overcame government opposition and morphed into a dynamic, multibillion-dollar industry. In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Similar laws have followed in more than a dozen other states, but not without antagonistic responses from federal, state, and local law enforcement. Lee, an award-winning investigative journalist, draws attention to underreported scientific breakthroughs that are reshaping the therapeutic landscape. By mining the plant’s rich pharmacopoeia, medical researchers have developed promising treatments for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, chronic pain, and many other conditions that are beyond the reach of conventional cures. Colorful, illuminating, and at times irreverent, this is a fascinating read for recreational users and patients, students and doctors, musicians and accountants, Baby Boomers and their kids, and anyone who has ever wondered about the secret life of this ubiquitous herb. Smoke Signals is the winner of the American Botanical Council's James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award for 2012

30 review for Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mark Jr.

    Indefatigable. Argument by avalanche. That's the method here. Story after anecdote after study after reason why cannabis should not only be legalized but recognized for the panacea that it is. But Martin Lee's journalistic prose style doesn't sound like something coming from a crackpot (or a pothead). If there isn't much life, or any humor whatsoever, in his dogged prose, there is skill and there is clarity. What isn't clear, what never really seems to get addressed, is why, in the face of "ample Indefatigable. Argument by avalanche. That's the method here. Story after anecdote after study after reason why cannabis should not only be legalized but recognized for the panacea that it is. But Martin Lee's journalistic prose style doesn't sound like something coming from a crackpot (or a pothead). If there isn't much life, or any humor whatsoever, in his dogged prose, there is skill and there is clarity. What isn't clear, what never really seems to get addressed, is why, in the face of "ample evidence," the Feds and narcs and presidents and attorneys general who are Lee's nemeses in this book would go to such great lengths to keep people from this wonder drug. As I listened to the book (nearly 22 hours, though I listened at 2.5x speed), my jaw dropped further and further as Lee persistently refused to show any real curiosity as to why so many smart, successful people would so utterly oppose and persecute marijuana smoking. He says they believe it's a gateway drug. He says the early opponents thought it led to criminal behavior. He says that “big pharma,” tobacco, and alcohol companies have financial reasons to oppose the rise of a competitor. But he doesn't probe. He doesn't really listen to the other side. He doesn't seem to believe that the Feds really believe their own reasons, but he doesn't seem to want to explore what their real reasons are. It could have been just me, but it seemed that as the book progressed Lee became even more dismissive of his enemies and less journalistic. He said of one expert witness called by the government, "She obviously knew zilch about the endo-cannabanoid system." (I paused to take that one down verbatim.) In the final words of the book he called his opponents "venal and dishonest." Even Barack Obama, despite campaign promises to the contrary, has come down hard on marijuana. Frankly, I don't (yet) know what the opponents of marijuana legalization are saying right now. I'm just getting into the debate. But methinks Lee doth protest too much. When a writer can't see any validity at all in the utterly brain dead opinions of his malicious and demonic enemies; and when he piles on the amazing cancer-fighting, brain-cell creating, mood-assisting benefits of the magical marijuana plant—I'm suspicious. Good and evil rarely line up neatly along us and them lines, and cost-benefit analyses are usually simpler in this fallen world than 100% benefit, 0% cost. I'm open to the idea that the active ingredients in marijuana could be viewed as medicines, particularly if they don't cause the self-control-marring "buzz" which seems to be the Bible's real concern with regard to the analogous issue of alcohol. If THC truly is an analgesic with minimal side effects and no tendency to cause dependence, who am I to condemn what other people receive with thanksgiving? Who doesn't want a wonder drug? But I'm not convinced. The jury is still out. Way out. Far out, man.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    Here's a book that will turn you into a Libertarian. If you weren't distrustful of government before reading this very detailed social history of marijuana in the United States, after reading you will begin to question every position espoused by the powers that be. The War on Marijuana has proven to be a entirely wasteful and hurtful program, jailing thousands of people unnecessarily, persecuting ill citizens who were obviously being helped by the medicinal benefits of herb, wasting tax dollars, Here's a book that will turn you into a Libertarian. If you weren't distrustful of government before reading this very detailed social history of marijuana in the United States, after reading you will begin to question every position espoused by the powers that be. The War on Marijuana has proven to be a entirely wasteful and hurtful program, jailing thousands of people unnecessarily, persecuting ill citizens who were obviously being helped by the medicinal benefits of herb, wasting tax dollars, enriching people undeserving of riches and empowering police and prison agencies. It's all here in sometimes too great of detail frequently so painful to read that one has to slam the cover of the book to regroup. It's amazing to me that it's taken eighty plus years for just two states, Colorado and Washington to legalize weed. Even though many states had authorized medical marijuana over the years Presidents, both Republican and Democratic, continued to raid, confiscate and jail citizens authorized by their state governments to smoke pot to gain the documented health benefits. Marijuana is a wonder drug that aids and even cures many adverse health conditions. Presidents like Clinton and Obama know this yet continue to authorize their "Justice" Department to harass and put in prison authorized growers and retailers and advocates. Ironically, the Federal Government has a pot growing operation and a handful of people are provided with medical marijuana by the Feds. Go figure. The War on Drugs, War on Terror and other bogus government initiatives are money making schemes that injure thousands of innocent people as the huge bureaucracies created to administer these programs ride roughshod over the populace benefiting, in the case of drug companies, monopolies and an un-level playing field. Thankfully, in the case of marijuana, millions of people know from experience that smoking or eating pot is not harmful and we can expect that more states than Colorado and Washington will get on board and legalize marijuana. This is a terrific and comprehensive book that details the medical, social and legal history of marijuana in the US.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    It gets a star off for lack of presenting both sides. However, in its defense there's not much logic on the opposing side. Plus my personal experience now confirms everything argued here. I think I'm becoming a cannabis activist in my 40s. In my late teens and early 20s, much like many in the history here, it was cannabis that made me aware of how absurd we are as humans. So....I drink, don't remember anything, feel like shit the next day, cause massive liver damage, increase my risks of heart d It gets a star off for lack of presenting both sides. However, in its defense there's not much logic on the opposing side. Plus my personal experience now confirms everything argued here. I think I'm becoming a cannabis activist in my 40s. In my late teens and early 20s, much like many in the history here, it was cannabis that made me aware of how absurd we are as humans. So....I drink, don't remember anything, feel like shit the next day, cause massive liver damage, increase my risks of heart disease and cancer, lose inhibitions and make terrible decisions and not only is it legal but there appears to be no limits in how much how often or where alcohol can be promoted. Weed on the other hand (I discovered) made my awareness so intense to the point of frightening me and in fact cannabis did have the paranoid effect on me in those years. I'm convinced it was because of my psychological state and my inability to do internal work at the time but that's a different discussion on the effects of the plant. Further, weed had no hangover. Weed countered the negative effects of a hangover. Weed had no side effects. Weed appeared to be benign. But that couldn't be possible. It was so strongly prohibited. Fast forward to the present. I no longer drink and I use cannabis alone. I have access to it legally and medicinally where I currently live. The continued absurd international prohibition of a plant (led by the US and Anslinger's International Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961) obviously has everything to do with business, politics and power and zero to do with actual logic. Study after study after study presented here and elsewhere shows the positive benefits of cannabis, hemp and associated products. The history of the use of cannabis historically, spiritually and socially is completely counter to the narrative we're presented. More absurdity. Personal experience on my part also justifies this. For me it's performed much better than pharmaceutical psychotropic medications with zero side effects. It increases my focus. It attunes me to issues in life that need addressing. It allows me to explore areas of myself in times of reflection and meditation that often simply appear and make themselves known. It's increased awareness and for me it stimulates productivity. The only thing I might suffer from is a better night's sleep. These effects are much different than how I experienced the plant in my 20s and also to how it was presented to me but at that time I was using it in combination with alcohol. There's quite a difference and the powerful awareness that cannabis brings will be frightening if you're mentally not in a good place. But it is simply bringing to light the issues that need to be addressed. Yes, I would 100% rather see a society solely have access to cannabis vs alcohol. One is a medicine the other is quite literally a poison - made from the process of rotting produce. I haven't given you a lot of studies with that little personal reflection but they're all in this book, they're all online, they're everywhere. In all areas of life it should be a balancing act. There are of course negatives with every positive. We try to balance that out as much as possible. The positive benefits of cannabis far outweigh the negatives and with our example of alcohol I fail to see how one could say the same. That alone should show the absurdity of our various prohibitionist stances. Alcohol is more conducive to an aggressive society. Cannabis is a healer and works much better as a reflective aid and even a spiritual assistant than anything else. This again is simply my own experience but it appears to be common. You're welcome to disagree and many will. Usually though I find that people who are anti-cannabis don't have a great deal of experience with it, have always used it with alcohol or another drug or maybe one or two negative experiences which I would challenge might say more about what's going on internally than it does about the plant. Anyway, I welcome your thoughts if you've checked this one out. It's an excellent history but it is extremely biased. It's hard not to be.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Reiden

    Wow, there was so much information in this book that it took some time to digest. This book tells the story of how cannabis became illegal. What started out in the US as a small time conspiracy mission to demoralize the controversial plant, quickly snowballed into an ignorant populous, hell-bent on eradicating the once common-place medicinal herb. What I found most interesting were the accounts of numerous studies (often ordered by the government) in attempts at discovering health concerns. The Wow, there was so much information in this book that it took some time to digest. This book tells the story of how cannabis became illegal. What started out in the US as a small time conspiracy mission to demoralize the controversial plant, quickly snowballed into an ignorant populous, hell-bent on eradicating the once common-place medicinal herb. What I found most interesting were the accounts of numerous studies (often ordered by the government) in attempts at discovering health concerns. The results repeatedly revealed no adverse effects whatsoever. According this book, marijuana is far less harmful to humans than is alcohol. Besides the lack of harm brought about by its use, the plant can also be used as medicine to treat countless conditions including epilepsy, ALS, MS, migraines, nausea, depression, and much more. Industrial fibers from hemp can also be turned into the building materials to construct homes, make paper, clothing, and cars. Even the plant’s seed oil has properties that make it essential for health and can be used as a possible fuel source. As detailed in this book, cannabis has the potential to completely revamp the world’s economy. The plant can also be easy grown in almost any environment and can be transformed into a countless number of every-day commodities. This book was well written and researched. It left me excited about a greener future especially with the (hopefully soon) use of hemp products to start replacing paper products made from trees. There is no longer a need to cut down forests at devastating rates - we have something better!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This book was frustrating. Whilst the historical accounts are fascinating at times, the author is incredibly bias and it clearly shows. This does not feel like a balanced journalistic survey, rather like a weed loving advocate preaching for hundreds of pages. it gets tiring quickly. I'm pro legilization, and agree with many of the points made in this book. However, Lee fails to acknowledge the other side once throughout the entire book. It's black and white all the way, the pot angels vs the governm This book was frustrating. Whilst the historical accounts are fascinating at times, the author is incredibly bias and it clearly shows. This does not feel like a balanced journalistic survey, rather like a weed loving advocate preaching for hundreds of pages. it gets tiring quickly. I'm pro legilization, and agree with many of the points made in this book. However, Lee fails to acknowledge the other side once throughout the entire book. It's black and white all the way, the pot angels vs the government devil's. Case closed. I'd recommend finding another book on the subject instead.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Krokki

    This is a 5000 year old saga of Marijuana - The Mircale Medicine and potent provider of Peace, Love, Compassion, Connection, Knowledge and Laughter. Its getting ridiciulous, especially that medical Marijuana is prohibited in great parts of the world. The proven and potential treatments and releving effects of the herb is nothing short of wonderful. From PTSD, ADHD, MS, parkinson, anxiety, depression, stress, alcoholism, epilepsy, eating disorders, bipolar disorder to many forms of cancer, just t This is a 5000 year old saga of Marijuana - The Mircale Medicine and potent provider of Peace, Love, Compassion, Connection, Knowledge and Laughter. Its getting ridiciulous, especially that medical Marijuana is prohibited in great parts of the world. The proven and potential treatments and releving effects of the herb is nothing short of wonderful. From PTSD, ADHD, MS, parkinson, anxiety, depression, stress, alcoholism, epilepsy, eating disorders, bipolar disorder to many forms of cancer, just to mention a few. And this with barley any side-effects, at least not compared to most farma drugs for treating the same conditions. And I dont think its a repressor of either success in life or IQ, just ask Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Mark Twian, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Niel deGrasse Tyson, Oliver Sacks, Oprah, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Joe Rogan, Seth McFarlane, Barack or Michelle Obama. Altough it might be harmfull to some people under the age of 25 (thats about when the brain is fully developed, according to neurologist), there is just no sense in prosecuting and putting people in prison for choosing to use marijuana instead of hard drugs - in America or any place in the world. Its also a guaranteed multi-billion dollar enterprise, wich would provide thousands of jobs and create tax-income for the state or country; and maybe earmark that income into the system to improve schools, hospitals, police and firedepartments - money that today is funding drug dealers, cartels and terrorist organisations.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Valoren

    Lee's work is an impressive piece of journalism, and I think it's important to be mindful that this book isn't meant to be an academic work, but is, as stated, a work of journalism. One could be forgiven for presuming this is a scholarly work as Lee goes to some lengths to attribute the mountains of citations and assertions that he makes throughout his to their first-hand sources, but this book is an expose, not a thesis. As the subtitle proclaims, it is 'a social history of Marijuana - medical, Lee's work is an impressive piece of journalism, and I think it's important to be mindful that this book isn't meant to be an academic work, but is, as stated, a work of journalism. One could be forgiven for presuming this is a scholarly work as Lee goes to some lengths to attribute the mountains of citations and assertions that he makes throughout his to their first-hand sources, but this book is an expose, not a thesis. As the subtitle proclaims, it is 'a social history of Marijuana - medical, recreational, and scientific', and throughout the length of this impressively long work, Lee delivers on his subtitle by tackling a staggering breadth and depth of information on the history, science, and cultural significance of cannabis without overstaying his welcome. I think most of us are familiar with the old narrative that marijuana first came under fire in the earth 20th century when William Randolph Hearst pushed to outlaw hemp, which threatened his timber interests, and that the drug was further demonized in the 1960s due to its associations with youth culture and the efforts of Richard Nixon, who kicked off the abject failure that has been America's "War on Drugs". Lee takes this narrative and thoroughly unpacks it, expanding upon it in ways that I was never aware. He traces the history of cannabis back centuries, where it was a commonly-used medicant throughout much of the world and enjoyed for both medicinal and palliative purposes by members of all creeds to whom it was available. The real demonization of cannabis in America, Lee asserts, occurred first in the early 20th century, when marijuana went from being a common curative added to commercially-available lotions, tinctures, and other medicine and became associated with the Mexican immigrants who brought smokable cannabis with them. Because of its hardiness to different climes, short growth cycle, and nearly universal availability with relative ease, marijuana quickly became a way of creating a cleavage between white Americans and the undesirable casts of black and Mexican Americans: the first attempt at marijuana prohibition can be attributed to little more than racism. Much like the laws condemning the opium trade in San Francisco in the late 19th century, the laws against the drug were really engineered to be laws against certain groups of undesirables. This was more fully expressed in the 1960s, when the focus shifted away from criminalizing being black or Hispanic and shifted to the criminalization of radicalism and youth. Richard Nixon's war on drugs was a war on his detractors, and he fabricated a mountain of lies, a bureaucratic maze, and a muscularly aggressive police force in order to crack down on dissidents. Reagan doubled down on Nixon's treachery, blatantly ignoring reports and scientific evidence which overwhelmingly depicts cannabis as non-addictive, medicinal for a host of ailments, and a natural stimulant of the endocannabinoid system of the human body. This willful repudiation of scientific fact somehow continues to this day, in absolute disgrace to our nation's manifest failures to create a villain for our national narrative. While Lee at times fumbles with his objectivity, he is, in truth, under no onus to be objective. He gives a few tentative nods to hemeopathy, a psuedoscience that is pure bunkum, but does not labor overlong on these brief mentions, and the overwhelming majority of the scientific information that he presents comes from reputable sources whom he empowers the reader to investigate on their own. Lee's is an important work on the subject, well worth a read whether you support or oppose access to cannabis. His book does what it sets out to do. One can hope that as we stand now on the event horizon of what would seem to be a wave of legalization of marijuana in the United States, that the scientific and medical advances forecast on the proviso of greater access to the herb will be made manifest to the benefit of all humankind, and that we as a nation will at the very least stop wasting time and resources enforcing a losing war on a plant whose narcotic effects are qualitatively far less harmful or dangerous than those of alcohol or tobacco.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Harold

    Martin A. Lee, investigative journalist, has written an articulate, compelling, fact-filled book on the social history of marijuana use in the United States and the corresponding prohibitionist mentality which has forever demonized the plant. Now, with the states of Colorado and Washington legalizing adult recreational use of cannabis (Cannabis is the preferred scientific term for marijuana), this book is an excellently written, pertinent resource for anyone wanting to know more about this contro Martin A. Lee, investigative journalist, has written an articulate, compelling, fact-filled book on the social history of marijuana use in the United States and the corresponding prohibitionist mentality which has forever demonized the plant. Now, with the states of Colorado and Washington legalizing adult recreational use of cannabis (Cannabis is the preferred scientific term for marijuana), this book is an excellently written, pertinent resource for anyone wanting to know more about this controversial plant. A few fascinating factoids gleaned from the book: *Louis Armstrong was a lifelong user of reefer, preferring it to alcohol. He was horrified at the use of heroin by fellow Jazz greats as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Bud Powell. *Hashish and other cannabis tinctures & confections were readily available from (without a prescription) from 19th century drugstores and mail-order outlets for the treatment of depression, insomnia, migraines, muscle pains and menstrual cramps. *Harry Anslinger, chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) created the "reefer madness" mythology when alcohol prohibition was repealed and the 1930's depression era government slashed his budget. His ally in spreading this ludicrous misinformation was the megalomaniacal newspaper magnate, Randolph Hearst, who hated Mexicans and spoke openly of his admiration for pre-war Nazi Germany. He notoriously printed false articles in his paper about Mexicans high on marijuana attacking anglo men and seducing anglo women. *In the 1950's and early 1960's, the US Army Chemical Weapons division experimented on soldiers (without their consent or knowledge)by administering THC (one of the active compounds in cannabis), LSD, PCP and other psychoactive drugs in a vain attempt at discovering a "truth drug" and/or nonlethal incapacitant. *Richard Nixon, who was a heavy user of sleeping pills, amphetamines & liquor, hated marijuana because he associated its use with hippies and Jews. *When First Lady, Nancy Reagan was sanctimoniously telling the nation to "just say no" to marijuana and illegal drugs, she was a chronic user of prescription tranquillizers. *The United States is the only industrialized nation that prohibits growing low THC industrial hemp for paper, fiber, fuel, etc. The DEA in 2001 unsuccessfully attempted to ban hemp food products. I give this book a resounding triple THC "kind bud" rating.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Barker

    If you're looking for an unbiased or objective view of the history of marijuana, this is not the book to find it in. It is very biased in favor of marijuana, it's legalization, and it's use. It focuses only on studies and positive history, even to the point of citing conspiracy theories at some point. If you're looking for a persuasive case for why marijuana should be legalized or are trying to convince friends or family members, then this is not the book. It is one-sided to the point of rewritin If you're looking for an unbiased or objective view of the history of marijuana, this is not the book to find it in. It is very biased in favor of marijuana, it's legalization, and it's use. It focuses only on studies and positive history, even to the point of citing conspiracy theories at some point. If you're looking for a persuasive case for why marijuana should be legalized or are trying to convince friends or family members, then this is not the book. It is one-sided to the point of rewriting history. While there are good points and good material, it paints marijuana users as saints, law enforcement as nefarious in their purpose and goals, and fails to adopt a more reasoned view that would allow it to be it to be more persuasive. If you want conspiracy theories, and marijuana activism extremist history/viewpoints then this is the book for you. If you're looking for something unbiased or even a reasoned case for marijuana usage this book is one to avoid. I was indifferent towards legalization/leaning towards being in favor of it even though I don't partake myself, I picked this book to get informative history and information, but came away turned off by the whole legalization movement. The title and description are very misleading, Lee is a poor writer, and this book was ultimately a waste of my time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Kudos to Martin A. Lee. He deserves the Pullitzer Prize and the National Book Award for this well documented, beautifully written and engaging book on a marvelous and ancient herbal medicine, probably the most clearly mistaken target of the U.S. Government's "War on [Some] Drugs". Perhaps you will become as furious as I did, reading about the U.S. government's decades-long war against its own citizens, one of the best indicators of a long-term slide towards totalitarianism. Although the governme Kudos to Martin A. Lee. He deserves the Pullitzer Prize and the National Book Award for this well documented, beautifully written and engaging book on a marvelous and ancient herbal medicine, probably the most clearly mistaken target of the U.S. Government's "War on [Some] Drugs". Perhaps you will become as furious as I did, reading about the U.S. government's decades-long war against its own citizens, one of the best indicators of a long-term slide towards totalitarianism. Although the government's war against us has been going on for a very long time, our main weapon as citizens consists in getting as well-informed as possible. Time will tell whether the legalization votes in Colorado and Washington will turn the tide or just bring the Federal Government boot down even more ruthlessly. But now's the time for citizens to put the pressure on and reading this book can help!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Yes, this book gets repetitive and it's abundantly clear this writer has an agenda, but if even a tenth of his seemingly well documented claims are true, we have been lied to for decades. It angers me. While I have a little trouble believing this ubiquitous plant cures everything from hang nails to cancer as the book suggests, I'm convinced thousands of lives are ruined on an ongoing basis for the sake of profit and politics and it must stop. At the very least we must allow for medical research Yes, this book gets repetitive and it's abundantly clear this writer has an agenda, but if even a tenth of his seemingly well documented claims are true, we have been lied to for decades. It angers me. While I have a little trouble believing this ubiquitous plant cures everything from hang nails to cancer as the book suggests, I'm convinced thousands of lives are ruined on an ongoing basis for the sake of profit and politics and it must stop. At the very least we must allow for medical research into the properties of cannabis compounds. I myself could probably benefit from the calming but non-intoxicating effects of CBD oil, but it is not yet available in my state. Maybe someday the more educated will prevail. It's kind of a shame the plant also has the side effect of making people feel good. We can't have THAT, can we? Oh, the horror!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gary Bruff

    Envision yourself in a salon in Paris during the belle epoch about a century and a half ago. Over here is Hugo, and over there is Delacroix. They are both tripping their asses off after eating an obscene quantity of hashish. Such scenes are painted by Martin Lee in Smoke Signals as a way of showing how weed culture emerged—whether as savior or as villain--and entered the mythic consciousness of just plain folks. Lee catalogs quite thoroughly how and why weed and cannabis culture managed to throw Envision yourself in a salon in Paris during the belle epoch about a century and a half ago. Over here is Hugo, and over there is Delacroix. They are both tripping their asses off after eating an obscene quantity of hashish. Such scenes are painted by Martin Lee in Smoke Signals as a way of showing how weed culture emerged—whether as savior or as villain--and entered the mythic consciousness of just plain folks. Lee catalogs quite thoroughly how and why weed and cannabis culture managed to throw up a smoke screen that fostered many misconceptions which most Americans are still finding it hard to put aside. For me, the best parts of Smoke Signals are to be found in the opening chapters. From an anthropological perspective, it’s fun to learn of the history (and prehistory) of so many people’s favorite plant. The discussion of how weed went from the Chinese pharmacopoeia of 2700 BC to the Sears catalogs of 1900 AD is truly epic, and it is a major drawback of this work that about half of it finds its focus on the past 20 years or so. Although we lack much evidence for such things, it would be interesting to know how aboriginal populations of eastern and central Asia used cannabis for fun and profit in even earlier times. Weed came into Western civilization along two routes. In more temperate climes, non-psychoactive hemp came to dominate as an industrial crop for making strong rope from hemp fiber. In the tropical regions of North Africa and South Asia, however, ganja was bred to maximize its THC payload. In these places, the plant became a drug in both senses, as an intoxicant and as a pharmaceutical. It is likely that this bifurcation between North hemp and South pot contributed to the racialist and orientalist theories about pot’s danger to youth, especially white youth. While George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp (actually, their slaves grew it) for making rope for ships and other uses, many brown people were always associated with the far more mind-bending form of THC-rich weed. Be that as it may, by the 20th century marijuana became stigmatized as the (demonic) drug of choice for black folk. Listen to early jazz, or to reggae and rap, and you will many times hear how African Americans project the reefer outlaw persona onto themselves. Weed use is not something blandly imputed to blacks by a white majority. The association of weed with minorities (including Latinos and Southeast Asians) has always been a two-way street. But the prohibition of cannabis and the propaganda of reefer madness had everything to do with ‘protecting’ white kids from the scary negro menace. Powerful anti-narcotics bureaucrats like Henry Aslinger built law-enforcement empires by fanning the flames of fear about this strange ‘new’ drug and its ability to seduce white kids into negritude. By the middle of the 20th century, the search for a counter-cultural milieu inevitably led to the adoption of weed as an emblem of the anti-establishment movements. The racist stigma against weed made it all the more appealing to the Beats and Hippies, who devised a virtual religion out of a drug which few white people outside of the ‘cult’ had any first or even second hand knowledge of. By the climax of the Vietnam War, weed was preferred over alcohol by both street-fighters and the actual troops on the ground in Indochina. As popular support waned for the protests, after the protests became dominated by radical revolutionaries, there was a backlash against weed and all it represented as a totem for hippies and other undesirables. Enter Ronald Reagan and his war on drugs, which forced America to return to an earlier age of prohibition and propaganda. Draconian laws were enacted that sent many peaceful people to prison, as judges handed down sentences that were tremendously disproportionate to the crimes committed. Even Bill Clinton, seeking unsuccessfully to distance himself from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, sent even more otherwise lawful folks to rot in prison. Today, many people still believe that getting high leads to other more serious crimes. The fact that crime tends to decline when weed laws are liberalized didn’t garner much attention until the Obama era when the tide had turned and it had become clear to many that pot was not only safer than alcohol but also functioned as a tremendously useful pharmacological wonder-drug for an ever growing list of ailments. A great deal of hard work from some highly interesting characters went into slowly changing the popular imagination about pot. Most states remain in a state of prohibition, but many states are opening up to the idea of medical, and to a lesser extend recreational, marijuana. The marijuana evangelists that Lee portrays have done great work to get the word out, and it appears for at least the time being that federal law enforcement has backed off from persecuting weed smokers in the sundry states, leaving it to the states to concoct their own recipe for legalization if they should so choose. But it appears we have crossed the Rubicon. Legalization, or at least general decriminalization, seem to be in the cards for Americans, whether they are on board with the cultural shift or not. Smoke Signals makes a strong case, through facts and not by biased speculation, that there is a happy, safe, peaceful, and lucrative future for pot here in the USA. The book is weighted toward the present, and it would be nice to have more detail about weed in olden times. For example, I would have liked to know about whether the slaves in the American South grew pot for their own use, and what effect if any that had on the slave’s consciousness. But we can’t have everything, and despite my misgivings about the lack of detail on marijuana’s murky and remote past, I am very high on this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Triz

    Highly informative and thoroughly researched, this was hands down the best book on Marijuana I've ever read. I highly suggested that everyone gets their hands on a copy and read it immediately. It's sickening and disgusting to read about the horrible lies and bigotry that has gone on for years and years through pot prohibition and the thousands of lives that have been ruined because of it, but on the other hand it makes me feel proud to live in time where change is finally on the horizon. Highly informative and thoroughly researched, this was hands down the best book on Marijuana I've ever read. I highly suggested that everyone gets their hands on a copy and read it immediately. It's sickening and disgusting to read about the horrible lies and bigotry that has gone on for years and years through pot prohibition and the thousands of lives that have been ruined because of it, but on the other hand it makes me feel proud to live in time where change is finally on the horizon.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mikey Will

    FINISHED: July 12, 2020 RATING: 3/5 The subtitle is apt in that this is foremost a "social history" or cultural discourse. The historical record is eurocentric, with primary cultural introduction as 18th-Century French literary circles (Dumas, Hugo, Balzac, etc.,). This is contrasted by archeological history which delves back towards 8000 BC. The deviated trajectory is less cultural misalignment but more an indictment on the ancient confinement of cannabis towards religious ritual (akin to the yog FINISHED: July 12, 2020 RATING: 3/5 The subtitle is apt in that this is foremost a "social history" or cultural discourse. The historical record is eurocentric, with primary cultural introduction as 18th-Century French literary circles (Dumas, Hugo, Balzac, etc.,). This is contrasted by archeological history which delves back towards 8000 BC. The deviated trajectory is less cultural misalignment but more an indictment on the ancient confinement of cannabis towards religious ritual (akin to the yoga and its modern revival). Half of the work is a perfunctory review of the formation of early 20th century jazz, 1950s beat culture and the 1960s counter-culture. This wide-eyed reflection is discursive, jumping across multiple topics central towards cultural development but often indirectly related to topic (e.g. a synoposis on William S. Burrough., Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, etc.,). Overall, cultural relatively is the focus and yet it still remains somewhat tenuous. Focus on the later years (1970-2010) details a clock-work overview on the burgeoning war on marijuana. A unique story whack-a-mole story emerges: Federal programs to reduce foreign drug smuggling (e.g. spraying herbicides across Mexico fields) birthed the US homegrown movement in the 1970s. Consequent federal raids on the blossoming homegrown market drove the cultivators indoors to advancing growing techniques (hydroponics, culling males, cross-breeding, hybridization, etc.,). The story then trails a decades-long drive for medical use legislation in California. The story embattles voter-led initiates & citizen advocacy against local politicians & federally-deputized police administrations amongst the backdrop of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. Of note the work suffers from a layman's perspective on health, medicine and science.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Wow. Just, an incredible piece of work here by Martin A. Lee, which comprehensively covers both the social history of cannabis and the scientific. Spanning almost a century of anti-drug policy in America and abroad, Lee has created a stunning rebuke of almost everything the United States (in particular) has done regarding this benevolent plant. It's hard for me to imagine anyone reading this book and coming out against marijuana reform when they were finished. The preponderance of the evidence in Wow. Just, an incredible piece of work here by Martin A. Lee, which comprehensively covers both the social history of cannabis and the scientific. Spanning almost a century of anti-drug policy in America and abroad, Lee has created a stunning rebuke of almost everything the United States (in particular) has done regarding this benevolent plant. It's hard for me to imagine anyone reading this book and coming out against marijuana reform when they were finished. The preponderance of the evidence in favor of cannabis' efficiency for medical use alone is truly overwhelming; combined with the War on Drugs' devastating effects on hundreds of thousands of people, the expansive growth of incarceration due to simple marijuana possession, and the vast and recurrent overreach of the federal government into the lives of its citizens, well...it's just damning, truly. This is one of the great injustices of our time, along with how we as a culture have treated other pertinent issues like climate change, social justice, and civil rights. I am giving this book to my mom, my friends, everyone. It's that impactful, and beyond that, a true delight to read. Almost every page is filled with substantiated quotes, scientific and medical studies, and interesting background information. The references portion at the end of the book takes up a full 26%, according to my Kindle. Impressive stuff. Just, read it. Do it now. Whether you're for or against pot, you can get something out of this book, and it deserves the highest of recommendations.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michaela

    Traces the history of human cannabis use from ancient civilizations to the cusp of recreational state laws. Focuses on certain aspects, like legalization efforts in California and anti-drug campaigns by US presidents, in great detail. While the author uses a journalistic tone and cites sources, it is evident that he firmly believes marijuana use is harmless if not a panacea for society's ills. In fact, he runs an organization that promotes CBD. It IS increasingly the medical consensus that marij Traces the history of human cannabis use from ancient civilizations to the cusp of recreational state laws. Focuses on certain aspects, like legalization efforts in California and anti-drug campaigns by US presidents, in great detail. While the author uses a journalistic tone and cites sources, it is evident that he firmly believes marijuana use is harmless if not a panacea for society's ills. In fact, he runs an organization that promotes CBD. It IS increasingly the medical consensus that marijuana helps some conditions and is less harmful than alcohol. But there is other research, like like the impact on young brains (apart from the spurious link to schizophrenia) that Lee does not bring up. I found Michael Pollan's recent "How to Change Your Mind" more engaging, and, if I were investigating cannabis from a medical or policy perspective, I would balance this source with other, more current, perspectives.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    I'm not usually a non-fiction reader, but WOW. Really great read, though by the end the pretense of impartiality is pretty much gone (I think referring to Ronald Reagan as a "Narc", while subjectively justifiable, somewhat surrenders journalistic neutrality). I also think that the pacing/focus of the book was a bit lumpy, specifically that the amount of time devoted to the history of pot in California was a bit over-represented. The state's historical relationship with marijuana, while fascinati I'm not usually a non-fiction reader, but WOW. Really great read, though by the end the pretense of impartiality is pretty much gone (I think referring to Ronald Reagan as a "Narc", while subjectively justifiable, somewhat surrenders journalistic neutrality). I also think that the pacing/focus of the book was a bit lumpy, specifically that the amount of time devoted to the history of pot in California was a bit over-represented. The state's historical relationship with marijuana, while fascinating, dominated the landscape of about 40% of the book. I wonder if such hyper-focus on one state in the US did not cause us to miss out on other protests, legislation, and uproars in other states. Still, very informational, well-researched, and convincing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mackenzie

    More than any other book/piece of media, Smoke Signals has forced me to hyper-critically examine policy and campaigns across the political spectrum and all mediums. The decades long bamboozlement of the American public and influence of the United States on policy concerning marijuana (and hemp) is a tragedy of enormous human, financial, social, and cultural waste and cost. Read this book. I picked it up because I started working in the cannabis industry but even if you are not a consumer, custom More than any other book/piece of media, Smoke Signals has forced me to hyper-critically examine policy and campaigns across the political spectrum and all mediums. The decades long bamboozlement of the American public and influence of the United States on policy concerning marijuana (and hemp) is a tragedy of enormous human, financial, social, and cultural waste and cost. Read this book. I picked it up because I started working in the cannabis industry but even if you are not a consumer, customer or industry member, you will be a better informed citizen and hear the amazing stories of so many dedicated activists, including those that ultimately lost their life fighting for a plant that has so much capacity to heal individuals, communities, and shrink disparities throughout the world.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tauhid Chappell

    Probably one of the densest books on marijuana that I've ever read. This book goes into many of the facets and nuances surrounding the plant: from cultivation, distribution to chemical makeup of the plant, connection to war on drug, racism and incarceration as well as the overall damage the war on drugs created to communities of color. Also highlights some big names and events who fought to legitimize cannabis and make it legal again. A pretty considerable history book in my opinion. Probably one of the densest books on marijuana that I've ever read. This book goes into many of the facets and nuances surrounding the plant: from cultivation, distribution to chemical makeup of the plant, connection to war on drug, racism and incarceration as well as the overall damage the war on drugs created to communities of color. Also highlights some big names and events who fought to legitimize cannabis and make it legal again. A pretty considerable history book in my opinion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shayna Vigliotta

    An excellent social history of cannabis in America. Despite it being published before legalization, this book is the best resource to navigating subjects pertaining to policy, stigma, activism, etc. A large focus of the book was centered around anti-cannabis propaganda & racism that was provoked, pushed & backed by the government. Factual, scholarly text that ended up being extremely useful in many situations defending my stance on legalization.

  21. 5 out of 5

    AnnBrown

    I was very interested in reading this. However, my remark is as follows. Very little attention is paid to the modern use of marijuana. We choose CBD products more often than the original plant now. It seems to me that you also need to know about such simple things - https://provacan.co.uk/cbd-topical/pr... The CBD has very specific medicinal products and has excellent household products. You must be able to distinguish where what. I was very interested in reading this. However, my remark is as follows. Very little attention is paid to the modern use of marijuana. We choose CBD products more often than the original plant now. It seems to me that you also need to know about such simple things - https://provacan.co.uk/cbd-topical/pr... The CBD has very specific medicinal products and has excellent household products. You must be able to distinguish where what.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Very important, very timely review of the war that has been waged against cannabis, driven by racism, fear, and financial dictatorships. Required reading for anyone who wants to have an informed opinion about cannabis and its place in our culture.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mason

    A highly educational deep-dive into the cultural and scientific narratives around marijuana. Lee does an excellent job interweaving dry medical lingo with riveting character drama, producing a lovely hybrid of fact-filled fun.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Phil Fryberger

    What a terrific book — full of names and anecdotes, facts, perspective, and downright poetic justice for the much-maligned “weed”. An absolute treasure trove in every paragraph.... and don’t skip the footnotes!!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Esther Marie

    I'm not an American history buff nor a political buff (as in, I don't really read much about case law) and I found this book to be really boring. I'm not an American history buff nor a political buff (as in, I don't really read much about case law) and I found this book to be really boring.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    SO many benefits to marijuana and hemp and still it remains largely illegal for mostly unenlightened political reasons.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    This is a very comprehensive history. Took me awhile to get through it, but once I got to the part of the history that was in my lifetime, I found it so interesting it went very quickly.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Samir Musallam

    Very well thought out book on the history of cannabis and should be a must read for anyone determining drug policy.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lila Talcott Travis

    Really interesting history of why marijuana is not treated like a medication but like something antithetical to our society (I will give you a hint = $$$). Thanks Martin!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tabitha Perkins

    Fantastic and informative

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