Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: 'The Little Black Book of Marijuana'

By David Downs
Wed, Aug 3, 2011 at 1:02 PM

College-bound seniors, prepare for a different kind of D.A.R.E.

Weed blogger Steve Elliott distills pot's history — as well as its most germane health, legal and cultural qualities — into publishing debut The Little Black Book of Marijuana. Out this week online and in major bookstores by Peter Pauper Press, the little black book measures just eight by six inches and spans a scant 160 pages, yet packs info on medical marijuana, weed cooking, growing and strains, as well as full-color pictures and illustrations.

Elliott said publishers approached him to author the title, which is intended to serve as a primer for cannabis culture newcomers. It's part of the “Little Black Book” series, which includes primers on wine, beer and sex.

Sorry, this book does not actually contain marijuana.
  • Peter Pauper Press
  • Sorry, this book does not actually contain marijuana.
“With the coverage and attention that pot is starting to get, it's dawning on the American public at large that maybe the majority of people support marijuana law reform,” Elliott said via phone from Seattle, in a thick accent from his native Alabama. “Those of us who are well-versed in the culture forget how bewildering it is when starting to learn about this plant.”

“What I imagined happening with this book is people in the know might choose to give this as a gift to a family member who is curious and open-minded but doesn't know very much yet,” he said. “I also tried to write it so if you already know, I would present it in such a way that it might be enjoyable to remind yourself.”

Indeed, The Little Black Book of Marijuana is a handy reference book for aficionados and newcomers alike. Elliott takes on an immense challenge in both filtering weed lore for veracity, then editing down the mounds of research for a coffee table-ready treat.

George Washington's diaries yield evidence the revolutionary grew hemp, Elliott said. Both the Declaration of Independence and Betsy Ross's first American flag were made from hemp paper and hemp cloth, the book notes.

The architect of the modern drug war, Henry J. Anslinger, turns out to be quite the racist quote machine, said Elliott. “He said some really crazy racist things. When you start looking at his personal correspondence you get a feel for the man and kind of shudder when you read the things he said and believed.”

Arguments for and against legalization are condensed to a laughable eight paragraphs in Little Black Book — a result of its emphasis on portability. Also, the topic of pot and sex is left untouched, even though a “little black book” used to refer to a gentleman or woman's private list of booty calls. The family man Elliott has no excuse.

“There should really be something,” he said. “There is a close connection between the two.”

(Peter Pauper has both Kama Sutra and Sex Toy books).

There's also zero info on how to buy pot, which has become quite a debacle in Elliot's home of state of Washington. This year medical cannabis patients cheered a dispensary bill, only to see it gutted at the governor's desk. In August, the city of Seattle steamed forward to regulate clubs on their own.

Elliott foresees a ballot initiative to legalize pot in Washington in 2012, and he thinks it'll pass. About 53 percent of Washington voters favor it, he said. It's a stark difference to his native South — where a combination of big government, big pharmaceutical companies, and Christian fundamentalism make it the beating heart of pot prohibition nationwide.

“I do miss the people. I know a lot of quality people who will do anything for you. What I don't miss is the political atmosphere. I feel a lot different here because they don't want to put me in a cage,” he said.

Elliott fled the South first for Los Angeles in 1999, where he started his own blog "Reality Catcher". “I just treated it as if it were my full-time job,” he said.

It caught the attention of Village Voice Media, the Arizona company that owns SF Weekly. Elliott blogged for SF Weekly's local “Chronic City”, then launched national weed blog “Toke of the Town”.

“Toke” crested a record 600,000 pageviews in June, Elliott said. He's branched out into dispensary reviews for Seattle Weekly, and edible reviews called Incredible Medibles. The first-time author is excited to be on bookshelves and ready to pen something longer.

“I've really enjoyed it,” he said. “It's been one of the most fun jobs I've ever had.”

Beware the L.A. Confidential
  • Peter Pauper Press
  • Beware the L.A. Confidential

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