There’s no doubt that the US has undergone some of its most radical reforms when it comes to cannabis in the last few decades, both in terms of legality and cultural acceptance. How we’ve come to this point, however, is a long, winding, and often convoluted tale that’s inextricably intertwined with global social movements, economics, and incarceration.
Given the increasing acceptance of cannabis in the US, there’s no time like the present to get yourself educated! Below, you’ll find a few choice books that dive deep into the history of cannabis prohibition, the war on drugs, and the exciting possibilities that come along with legalization. So, settle into a comfy chair, spark a joint, and get that knowledge.
Artificial Paradises by Charles Baudelaire
You might remember Baudelaire from your college comparative literature courses. Beyond his prose poetry and translations of Edgar Allen Poe, this French poet-cum-national-treasure also produced a work in which, through explorations of the effects of various psychoactive (including hashish), he contemplates issues of addiction as well as the social benefits that might accompany the use of various substances. First published in 1860, the work has served as inspiration for those who later explored the therapeutic and metaphysical benefits of myriad drugs, from cannabis to hallucinogens.
The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer
Perhaps you’ve encountered the name Jack Here before; after all, he counts one of the most popular strains of cannabis as his namesake. Among his other distinctions is this nonfiction work, which explores the history of cannabis cultivation as well as its myriad uses as a drug and as hemp. Published in 1985—the heyday of Reagan’s destructive chapter in the War on Drugs—Herer develops an economic and social argument in support of the legalization of cannabis at a time in which such a notion felt almost impossible.
Shattered Lives by Mikki Norris, Chris Conrad, Virginia Resner
At this point, it’s common knowledge that the War on Drugs has destroyed numerous lives, broken up countless families, legislated racialized discrimination, and doled out unfair sentences overwhelmingly to people of color. But most folks, including today’s cannabis connoisseurs, might not grasp the ways in which the longstanding program has profoundly shaped issues like immigration, income inequality, and the mass incarceration of black and brown people, both at home and abroad. This critical book traces the lives of those most touched by the War on Drugs and explores how American policy came to be as such, as well as what can be done to quell America’s longest war.
Smoke Signals by Martin A. Lee
If Shattered Lives dives deep into the effects of the United States’ War on Drugs, Smoke Signals paints a picture of how society paved the way for such a program to even exist. Beyond a mere historical exploration, Lee concerns himself with unraveling the bureaucratic and business entities concerned with maintaining prohibition by detailing the research advancements around cannabis that threaten those who hold the vast majority of medical and pharmacopoeia power in the US.