Investigative journalist Martin A. Lee--cofounder of the national media watch group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) and coauthor of Acid Dreams (about the CIA’s secret LSD research)--recently wrote what many people consider to be the definitive social and medical history of marijuana.
Lee’s new book is the precise educational tool that our country currently needs--as marijuana legalization initiatives recently passed in Washington and Colorado, polls indicate that the number of Americans now in favor of cannabis legalization is at an all time high, and many people still remain ignorant about the true history of marijuana.
Lee’s new book Smoke Signals helps to remedy this situation by recounting and illuminating every step of the way, adding many new details and fresh insights.
Lee traces the fascinating history of cannabis--from it’s early shamanic use in Africa to the flourishing medical cannabis dispensaries on America’s Western frontier--and he discusses in satisfying depth how the unusually versatile plant has long been used as a safe and effective medicine, as a religious sacrament, for creative inspiration and psychological insight, as well as for fun, food, fiber, fuel, and rope.
Lee recounts how cannabis was hailed in French literary circles during the 1840s, praised by American Jazz musicians during the 1930s, as well as by Beat writers in the 1950s, and Hippie activists in the 1960s.
Lee also vividly describes how cannabis has long been unjustly demonized, starting with Harry Anslingers’s “reefer madness” campaign, and he explains how this propaganda program metamorphosized into Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagon’s politically-motivated “War on Drugs,” that continues unabated to this day.
The ongoing societal nightmares--lost and ruined lives, government corruptions, racist discriminations, lost constitutional rights, escalating violent crime, wasted resources, and draconian prison policies--that prohibition has brought about are described in vivid detail. When reading Lee’s clear presentation of the facts, it’s hard to have much sympathy for the government’s misguided, unbudging decision to declare that cannabis is such a dangerous drug that it requires jailing its users at all costs, and shredding the Constitution.
Lee also recounts the medical history of cannabis, from early herbal remedies to the recent scientific studies, and he explains why cannabis offers so many medical benefits, due to the fact that it activates receptors in the body that play a crucial role in disease prevention, neuroprotection, and restoring physiological balance in response to stress.
Part social history, part medical research summary, and part political commentary, Smoke Signals reads like a page-turning, tragicomedy. It’s hard to put this impeccably researched and wittily written book down.
While I found some parts of Smoke Signals to actually be quite hilarious, and it had me laughing out loud at times, much of the book evoked tears and anger. It’s hard not to feel a sense of surging outrage over how marijuana users--even deathly ill medical users--have been persecuted by the U.S. government.
This is why I think that Smoke Signals should be required reading in every high school history class.
Two other important and recently-published books about cannabis include The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis, which is a collection of wide-ranging essays (by such contributors as Andrew Weil, Michael Pollan, and Lester Grinspoon) compiled by Julie Holland, and Doug Fine’s Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution, an in-depth look at the prosperous legal cannabis industry, and how the “new green economy” is influencing our future.
To learn more about Smoke Signals see: http://www.smokesignalsthebook.com/
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