As America inches toward a historic peace in its 77-year-old war on marijuana, the knowledge gap between the experts and the mainstream has never been wider. In pockets of the Bay Area, patients discuss the benefits of cannabidiol vaporization. But in other parts of the state and country, those terms might as well be in Swahili.
Rushing in to fill the gap this year has been a bumper crop of literature on the subject. From a massive, encyclopedic tome published by Oxford University Press, to a breezy, entry-level primer from the folks at High Times, there are titles for every interest level, whether you're a neophyte retiree researching topicals, an aspiring extraction technician, or a doctor looking to continue your education. Check 'em out.
Edited by Roger Pertwee, $150, Oxford University Press
This brick-sized motherlode of cannabis science from Oxford University is 768 pages long and it dropped into stores in October. Each chapter on the science, medical uses, and public health challenges and benefits of pot is written by a group of authors recognized internationally as experts. It's the new benchmark for what's relevant, accurate, and correctly interpreted in a field polluted by propaganda. From pharmacological history to international control to cultivation and phenotypes, Handbook of Cannabis contains the science that backs up what an estimated 92 percent of California adults who have used pot for a serious illness say: It works. It's the ultimate academic reference title. Editor Roger Pertwee has three degrees from Oxford (biochemistry, pharmacology, and physiological sciences) and is a professor of neuropharmacology at the University of Aberdeen. Guest authors include UC Berkeley's Amanda Reiman and plant science luminary Dr. Arno Hazekamp.
By Michael Backes, $22.95, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
Perfect for regular folks looking to arm themselves with medical cannabis science to treat illness and symptoms, Cannabis Pharmacy by respected expert Michael Backes goes through 29 of the most common conditions for which doctors recommend cannabis, including chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, and Parkinson's disease. Southern California resident Backes is a member of the American Herbal Products Association's Cannabis Committee, and is active with the Bay Area-based Project CBD — which pioneered the return of non-psychoactive cannabis therapies. It's both well-researched and easy to read with a foreword by integrative medicine pioneer Andrew Weil. M.D., who has sold more than 10 million copies of his books Spontaneous Healing, 8 Weeks to Optimal Health, and Healthy Aging.
By Tony Dokoupil, $26.95, Doubleday
America is a porous, expansive country where international drug interdiction is more theater than reality. Diving into that reality is journalist Tony Dokoupil who finds an unlikely lens through which to examine the futile drug war: his father "Big Tony." Big Tony ran stateside operations for one of the biggest pot smuggling rings of the twentieth century, responsible for the distribution of at least fifty tons of it. Little Dokoupil is a senior writer for NBC News who didn't find out until age thirty that his father was not, in fact, an antique dealer and real estate agent in Vermont. Proceeds from the Colombian weed import biz paid for young Tony's rather posh upbringing in Eighties Miami, and the journalist Dokoupil neither venerates nor demonizes his dad — who was simultaneously a seeker, a good father, and a self-destructive addict.
By Doug Fine, $14.95, Chelsea Green
Doug Fine, the comedic investigative journalist and best-selling author of Too High to Fail, throws himself once more into the topic of pot — this time focusing on the return of industrial hemp for fiber, food, and, most importantly, fuel. Fine argues for the ancient textile as the linchpin of a green food and energy revolution in America.
By Ed Rosenthal, $24.95, Quick Trading
Oakland celebrity cannabis author Ed Rosenthal tackles the science and DIY production of marijuana extracts in Beyond Buds (featuring contributions from your humble columnist). Rosenthal is the author of the blockbuster textbook Marijuana Grower's Handbook. Beyond Buds hit number one on Amazon's best-sellers list for hobby books, beating out titles on Etsy, home-brewing, and knitting.
By Elise McDonough, $16.95, Chronicle Books
Medical or not, marijuana is America's most popular illicit substance, and with mores shifting, norms are missing. Filling this gap are titles such as Marijuana For Everybody! from Chronicle Books. It's by Santa Cruz-based Elise McDonough, a High Times staffer, edibles book author, and event organizer for the magazine. Chapter topics include what is weed, how it works, cooking with pot, FAQs, and "I'm High, Now What" — a selection of activities to amuse the freshly baked.
SkyMaul 2 – Where America Buys His Stuff
By Kasper Hauser, $16.99, St. Martin's Griffin
If laughter is the best medicine, it also pairs nicely with pot in this unauthorized parody of the infamous in-flight SkyMall catalog. Bay Area comedy troupe Kasper Hauser — Rob Baedeker, Dan Klein, and James Reichmuth — are the writers of Obama's Blackberry and SkyMaul: Happy Crap You Can Buy From a Plane. The catalog format lends itself to attention-limited, coffee table reading, but the jokes are evergreen. The book's artwork is equally absurd and spot-on, especially for the Karate Clarinet Bong ($42), The Standing Naked Desk ($339), and the Tweaker Fishing Set ($99).
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