Stoner MacGyver book review: Smoke Signals

MacGyver.
Now and then, companies send us medical marijuana-related products ranging from vaporizers to board games to books. We showcase them in our quasi-regular product review section, Stoner MacGyver.

The latest? Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana -Medical, Recreational and Scientific

What is it, dude? A book about cannabis history, use and culture in the West, man.

How much coin will it run me? $30

Where can I get one? Amazon.com is your best bet.

SmokeSignals.jpg
If the last book we reviewed felt like a primer course in marijuana, this one would be for upper-level college credit. Journalist and cannabis activist Martin A. Lee takes on the daunting task of chronicling the last 500 years of cannabis in Western history in a book that's a blend of short stories, medical encyclopedias, history books and sociology texts all centering around our favorite plant.

Lee starts out with a jangled mix of various cannabis-related folklore he dubs "herblore". It's a quick jump from learning about Louis Armstrong's preference for "gage" over whiskey and marijuana's connection with music to information about cannabis and the 16th Century African slave trade, the sexing of plants and more. But it's interesting and reads at a quick pace.

Other highlights of the work include an entire chapter on the prohibition of cannabis in the United State and around the world, with a special focus on the plant's ties to Mexico. Lee not only discusses how cannabis came its way to that country in the first place, but he theorizes that it became so prevalent due to Spain ordering hemp to be planted from California to Chile in the mid-1500s. After hemp crops were left unattended and nature took it's course, plants began to adapt, and over hundreds of years, they evolved into the same "mota" enjoyed in the late 1800s by Mexicans and Mexican immigrants to the United States.

If that's all too lofty for you, Lee also throws in boatloads of trivia that would win you big money on a Ganja Jeopardy episode. Examples: The term "roach" stems all the way back to the song "La Cucaracha", and the government studied turning marijuana into a chemical weapon that would stone opposition into a hazy submission.

Continue to read more about Smoke Signals.


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