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 listen 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.
©2012 Martin A. Lee (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
Thanks to Blake from Portland OR a couple in front of me for doing my review. I seldom review books, however, this particular topic is one I'm quite familiar with and most aspects of it interest me. To say I'm "Pro Pot" would be quite the understatement.That said, as Blake notes so well, this book is one sided as to be uncomfortable, even to readers "on the same page" as it were. The petty name calling starts early but is overlooked in anticipation of a balance that never appears. I was distracted by the "Neener Neener" kindergarten feel after a while.There are some interesting facts and anecdotes to be sure. I learned quite a bit in reading this book. Still, I'm not sure I'd recommend it, which is a shame.....avoidable.
As someone who is really close to this issue, and fairly well informed on the subject, I might be more critical than someone with less information. My rating is really 3.5 stars, but with Audible not having the in-between option, I could not justify giving it four stars.
My main complaint about the book is the way that the information is presented. The case the author is making is strong enough that he didn't have to go down the road of making his contempt for the opposition so blatant. The facts about cannabis are so overwhelmingly in his favor that he would have been better off going out of his way to be fair instead of so obviously allowing his politics and philosophical views to bleed into the text. History is an examination of the facts as they are available, not telling a story with good guys and bad guys. Don't get me wrong, I'm on his side on almost every issue covered, I just got sick of hearing him pick apart every criticism leveled at pot and pot smokers, indignant at the lack of fairness, and then turn around and paint his opponents with a broad brush, even resorting to name calling and mockery, over and over again. It sounded more like a speech being delivered to a friendly audience at hempfest to rally the troops than a book for the general public. I kept expecting him to break out the Pom poms and lead a cheer for the almighty weed.
Nick Pohdel is a competent narrator, he's steady, clear and I only noticed one mispronounciation. I'm not sure he was the right choice for this book, however. Pohdel's reading can sometimes make Lee's writing sound preachy or indignant when it doesn't have to. His stiff, overly serious sounding style and dorky, white guy accent prevented the humor and lightheartedness of the writing from coming through.
All this being said, there's a lot of good information here. A lot of it was covered in Jack Herer's "The Emperor Wears No Cloths", but the later chapters provide a good crash course in what has taken place in the last twenty years. Political events are important, and he covers all of the big ones, but I would like to hear more about the cultural and economic aspects of the story that were not political in nature. Still, for a person who has not read a whole lot on the subject, this book has a lot to offer.
Nick Podehl's performance was outstanding.
In Martin Lee's telling the story is something like a tragic romance between two young lovers: the American people and sweet Marijuana constantly thwarted by cruel, uncaring parents - the Federal government.
It is incredibly one sided. I agree with the vast majority of Mr. Lee's assertions, but it is totally lacking any balance and in the final analysis I just can't trust it. Martin Lee apparently has never met anyone for whom pot was anything but an incredibly positive experience.
I believe pot is generally harmless for most people and causes less short term issues than booze, but that doesn't mean it there is no downside to pot use. I've seen it and, oddly, many of the strong pot advocates highlighted in the book, such as the founder of "High Times" Tom Forcade, die sad untimely deaths. I'm not saying they died because of their pot use, but Lee is so focused he never bothers to consider the question. I have no idea, but I am curious about him and the other untimely deaths.
Also, according to Mr. Lee no one who ever opposed pot ever did so except for the most venal, greedy, shortsighted reasons. And that would be OK, but he is so certain about his opinions. For instance, his description of Pancho Villa is like something from a Villista propaganda pamphlet, and he makes America in the 1940s and 1950s sound as bad or worse than Stalin's Soviet Union. It is just a matter of balance and Lee is so unbalanced that it makes me hesitant to endorse all of his conclusions.
I believe Mr. Lee would argue that the anti-marijuana crowd have had the floor for the last century and there is a lot of truth to that. Perhaps Mr. Lee lacks a certain confidence, because he could have overwhelmed nearly all of the serious, honest opposition to pot. He simply doesn't try, because he is so busy extolling the many virtues Miss Mary Jane.
All in all a solid book with a lot of useful information, but not a good balanced book that I can trust as the final word.
It's like reading Douglas Southhall Freeman's biographies of another Lee - Robert E. Lee. Even seventy years later those are great books, but they are hardly the last word on Lee because Freeman could not bear to ask hard questions about his idol General Lee. In this case, Martin Lee loves sweet Mary Jane. That keeps Smoke Signals from being the final word on marijuana.
Well researched. Interesting and emotion enducing content. Speaks the truth. Does it make me angry at our government? Yes.
Just brought frustration and resentment.
Author does a great job of giving and idea of the history of many potent drugs in America. Provides a lot of information and understanding pertaining to history and why prohibition is in affect
I heart mysteries, political non-fiction, and memoirs, especially all in one book.
This book literally blew me away. I listened to an interview between Lee and Terry Gross and was impressed by Lee's nuanced answers. History buffs, alternative medicine seekers, law makers, civilians, pot heads, the sick, Republicans and Democrats, old and young alike will find so much to love about this book. I gave the hard copy to not one, not two, but three family members this holidays season, all of whom are as diverse as they come.
The history behind marijuana is well researched and the most complete I've ever come across, in terms of time and geography. The footnoted research done with medical journals is unlike any I've come across in the past and the reverence for the sacred use is refreshingly un-sappy.
I've learned so much from this book and hope you will too.
This book is so well investigated that I think that I would like a print copy for reference.
The personal stories where the people as sick as they were, and needing help themselves, were trying to do things for the sake of others , I was really impressed at the goodness that this group of people have. I wonder does that trait come before the weed or does the weed help mold the person to be so socially considerate.
No "refer madness" here, just a well researched, comprehensive, reality based breath of fresh air that has been long over due.
Too many to list.
This is a must read.
A great lesson on history. If you want a lot of information to use in your discussions of why pot should be legalized then consume this book however you consume books. Studies and quotes are cited for further research as well. Now, consume and go change the world.
History Nerd with an emphasis on the history of the Great War. I live in San Jose CA
As an overview of the history of the ancient herb this is a serviceable enough book. As an indictment of US drug policy it is again good enough, if a little over the top. But overall this is a disappointing narrative. There is a much better book lurking in plain site but the authors decision of a liniare narrative and advocacy position get in the way.
A better approach could have been to take up each of the issues individually, the legal history, the medical history, and the political history each in turn. Turning down the advocacy in the narrative would have helped as well.
As it is we keep meeting the same people and the same issues and the same arguments to the point of saturation and beyond. It's the same drill when the author presents the clinical results of Marajuana research and marajuana treatments. We keep covering the same ground with the same researchers and the same facilities. At times the book descends into pure snake oil salesmanship. It's not enough for the author to disprove the government's bogus claim that there is no benefit in the bud, the author must then go on to prove that the noble weed can cure a rainy day.
The author is on much more solid ground when going over the impact of the herb during the social implosion known as the 1960's. Also informative is how weed impacted the Beat Generation, the precursor to the psychedelic '60's. Before these two seminal events is the coverage of Marajuana prohibition and how racial bias plus more than a bit of beaurecratic preservation and empire building played a part in the process. The author makes painfully clear that government policy about Marajuana was never about rational considerations, but about other, much more cynical and sinister considerations. But even here the author is unwilling to let the fact speak for themselves. The author is not content to point out how corrupt and corrupting drug policy is by a mere presentation of the facts. The author just can not resist a little hyperbably, or to beat a dead horse into the ground.
Despite all this I was left with a more positive view not only of the herb itself but it efficacy as a medicinal. The case is made. The research is provided. The facts and footnotes are provided. It's a solid case that needs to be fast tracked by double-bind studies that fast-track the dispensing of the herb for specific medical maladies and for harm reduction. This is clear and the US government needs to stop being dishonest on this matter. It also needs to end the fear mongering on a weed that has been proven to have zero toxic effects, as the author so well documents. Hemp was widely available in the glory days of patent medicine both as a treatment and for industrial uses. The book gives plenty of good reasons for it to come out of the shadows and rejoin our society as a useful product.
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