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High Culture:

  Marijuana in the Lives of Americans

    by William Novak

      Annotated Bibliography

The reader interested in learning more about marijuana will find no shortage of good literature on the subject. He may be surprised to learn that some of the best material is contained in various government reports, beginning with The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, published in Simla, India, in 1893-94. This seven-volume work, running to over three thousand pages, is known as the most complete study of marijuana ever undertaken. Seven commissioners, made up of four Englishmen and three Indians, secured testimony on the use of cannabis from over a thousand witnesses. There are only a few copies of the report in North America, but a digest of the findings of the commission by Dr. Tod Mikuriya appears in the International Journal of the Addictions (Spring 1968). The final and summary volume of the report was reprinted in 1969 by the Jefferson Publishing Co. (Silver Spring, Md.), edited by Professor John Kaplan.
    The La Guardia Committee Report, published in 1944, is the result of a five-year study commissioned by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York City. The committee, composed of physicians, health officials, and a psychologist, studied marijuana use both under natural conditions (the city's "tea pads") and in special testing centers. The report is reprinted in The Marihuana Papers, edited by David Solomon. The Baroness Wootton Report was published in England in 1968. The Report of the Canadian Government's Le Dain Commission was published in 1972, as was the report of the American Shafer Commission, under the title Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding (New American Library).
    Turning now to academic and popular literature, the place to begin is with Lester Grinspoon's classic Marihuana Reconsidered (1971), a remarkably thorough exploration of marijuana, focusing on its history chemistry, pharmacology, medical uses, and legal considerations. Grinspoon's presentation of descriptions of marijuana (and hashish) intoxication by literary figures is especially interesting, and the pages contributed by "Mr. X.," an anonymous scientist, are invaluable.
    Grinspoon, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, began looking into marijuana in 1968, expecting to produce a short documentation of the drug's various dangers. But in the face of the evidence, he changed his mind. "I called it Marihuana Reconsidered because I was the one who had to reconsider on the basis of the evidence," he explains, adding, "I discovered that while marijuana wasn't addicting, learning about it was. I ended up with a 600-page manuscript." The book contains extensive notes, bibliography, and an index. A second edition, published in 1977, adds disappointingly
    An equally good book of an entirely different nature is A Child's Garden of Grass (1969) by Jack Margolis and Richard Clorfene. Subtitled "The Official Handbook for Marijuana Users," it is a favorite among smokers, full of incisive and funny comments and suggestions. It also provides some of the best descriptions of being high that have appeared anywhere.
    There are three books about the personal effects of marijuana. The Cannabis Experience: An Interpretive Study of the Effects of Marijuana and Hashish (1974) is the most inclusive. The authors, Joseph Berke and Calvin Hernton, based their work on over five hundred responses to questionnaires sent to English users of marijuana and hashish. While the book contains many good quotations, it suffers from poor organization and virtually no integration of the data into the text.
    A far more organized presentation of similar material can be found in On Being Stoned: A Psychological Study of Marijuana Intoxication (1971), by psychologist Charles Tart. Tart, whose special interest is in exploring altered states of consciousness, carried out the first federally supported research to explore what users experience with marijuana. His book, too, is based on responses to a questionnaire. Tart's list includes over two hundred separate effects of marijuana, and his book provides many useful statistics.
    Erich Goode's The Marijuana Smokers (1970) is broader in scope than Tart's book; the author is a sociologist at the State University of New York. Based on a survey of two hundred marijuana smokers, this book deals with the fundamental components of the stoned experience and with such related issues as the legal and medical implications of marijuana. Goode's book is somewhat dated, but otherwise useful. Goode is also the author of a provocative and thoughtful work entitled Drugs in American Society (1972), which is concerned with some of the controversies surrounding marijuana in America.
    Drugs and the Public (1972), by Norman Zinberg and John A. Robertson, provides a refreshing perspective on public attitudes and American drug laws. The best book on the drug's legal aspects is Marihuana: The New Prohibition (1970), by John Kaplan. Kaplan, Professor of Law at Stanford University, collects a wealth of general information about marijuana to support his thesis that the current drug laws should be changed. Like Grinspoon, Kaplan set out to write about the dangers of marijuana and changed his mind after research. And like Grinspoon, he refutes some of the more extreme charges against marijuana, most of which have considerably died down since—and perhaps because—these books were published. Pot Shots (1972), by Michael Stepanian, covers the legal aspects of marijuana from the user's perspective and is concerned with transmitting the details of the marijuana laws to users so that they may defend themselves if they are busted.
    The best treatment of the history of marijuana in America, aside from Grinspoon's, is Licit and Illicit Drugs (1972), by Edward M. Brecher and the editors of Consumer Reports. Although fewer than sixty pages of this thick volume are devoted to marijuana, they are packed with interesting and important information about the drug, especially about its history in the United States. Reefer Madness (1979), by Larry Sloman, is subtitled "The History of Marijuana in America." And although the book is mostly impressionistic, it does contain new information about the legal history of marijuana and sheds new light on the career of Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics during the 1930S (the most important antimarijuana force in American history). The best source of information about marijuana users during the Anslinger era is Really the Blues (1946), by jazz musician and marijuana aficionado Milton (Mezz) Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe.
    For a general history of marijuana, a good source is A Brief History of Marijuana (1971), by Michael Aldrich, director of the Ludlow Memorial Library, a private collection of drug-related materials in San Francisco. Aldrich's monograph is only fourteen pages long and is currently out of print, but it is filled with facts about marijuana's history that have not been collected elsewhere. Cannabis and Culture (1975), edited by anthropologist Vera Rubin, is a large and fascinating collection of anthropological and historical articles about cannabis around the world, including Thailand, Ethiopia, Mexico, Colombia, Jamaica, Brazil, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Greece, India, Nepal, and several other countries.
    Together with Lambros Comitas, Dr. Rubin is also the author of Ganja in Jamaica: A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marihuana Use (1975), a comprehensive report on the long-term effects of marijuana smoking in Jamaica. As an intensive multidisciplinary study of marijuana use and its users, it is the first study that examines healthy smokers in their natural environment.
    The most provocative theoretical treatment of marijuana and certain related issues is Andrew Weil's The Natural Mind: A New Way of Looking at Drugs and the Higher Consciousness (1972). Although some of Weil's claims have been the subject of controversy, the book is a thoughtful essay about the drug experience, with particular reference to marijuana. The Natural Mind deals imaginatively with the whole subject of altered states of consciousness and society's response to them. Most important, this is the only book on this list that deals with the all-important question of distinguishing between good and bad use of marijuana.
    "Becoming a Marihuana User," Howard Becker's article on novice smokers, is reprinted in his book Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (1963), which also includes another important although somewhat dated paper by him, "Marihuana Use and Social Control."
    A relatively new publishing house, And/Or Press of Berkeley, California, has issued several books geared to the aficionado rather than the general reader. Their best known book is Marijuana Grower's Guide (1978), by Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal. The standard edition has already sold over four hundred thousand copies; the deluxe edition is a careful and complete guide to indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation, with plenty of interesting extraneous material and several dozen color photographs. And/Or also published Psychedelics Encyclopedia (1977), a useful work by Peter Stafford, which includes a good section on cannabis. Marijuana Potency (1977), by Michael Starks, is somewhat more specialized, describing the various chemical components of marijuana and the differences among varieties.
    Perhaps the most unusual of the And/Or books is Sinsemilla: Marijuana Flowers (1976), by Jim Richardson and Arik Woods. This is the first marijuana coffee-table book, featuring close-up photographs in glorious color of the life cycle of California sinsemilla marijuana, accompanied by an elegant text. Along the same lines but with a broader scope is The Great Books of Hashish (9 vols.; vol. 1, 1979), by Laurence Cherniak, with color photographs of hashish production around the world. Finally, there is a slender volume called Cooking With Cannabis (1978) by Adam Gottlieb.
    Jerry Kamstra's Weed: Adventures of a Dope Smuggler (1974), provides a valuable inside look at the marijuana industry in Mexico and how the drug got from there to here in recent years. Kamstra is a keen observer of social change, and his comments on the evolving patterns of marijuana use are illuminating.
    Uses of Marijuana (1971), by Solomon H. Snyder, is a small but very informative collection of contemporary information. The book is especially good on history and medicine, and provides excellent distillations of recent and often complex research. Another good compendium of information is William Drake's slightly eclectic and eccentric book, The Connoisseur's Handbook of Marijuana (1971), which makes for good browsing.
    Several anthologies offer interesting material about marijuana. The best known is The Marihuana Papers (1966), edited by David Solomon. It includes Becker's "Becoming a Marihuana User," the 1944 La Guardia Report, and articles by William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, and Allen Ginsberg, among others. Erich Goode is the editor of a fine anthology entitled simply Marijuana (1969), which contains a number of useful articles and several good anonymous contributions. An excellent anonymous essay on marijuana called "The Effects of Marijuana on Consciousness" appears in an anthology by Charles Tart entitled Altered States of Consciousness (1969); this one chapter is more informative and original than many entire books about marijuana. An anthology edited by Norman Zinberg, Alternate States of Consciousness (1977), contains little on marijuana per se, but provides interesting views by Zinberg, Weil, Tart, and others on altered states of consciousness in general.
    Other anthologies of note include The Drug Experience (1961), edited by David Ebin, which contains first-person accounts of drug users, including material from the writings of Milton Mezzrow, Ludlow, Baudelaire, Bayard Taylor, and many others. The Book of Grass(1976), edited by George Andrews and Simon Vinkenoog, brings together a range of diverse materials on cannabis, including selections from the diary of George Washington, the caterpillar scene from Alice in Wonderland, and much more. The New Social Drug: Cultural, Medical and Legal Perspectives on Marijuana (1970), edited by David E. Smith, contains several important articles, including the full version of the classic Weil-Zinberg-Nelsen paper, "Clinical and Psychological Effects of Marihuana in Man."
    Marijuana: Medical Papers, 1893-1972 (1973), edited by California physician Tod Mikuriya, is a compendium of articles on the medical uses of cannabis.
    Hashish is the subject of several anthologies, including Tales of Hashish: A Literary Look at the Hashish Experience (1977), edited by David C. Kimmens, and a three-volume anthology of classic hashish tales edited by David Hoye, entitled Hasheesh: The Herb Dangerous (1974).
    A useful reference work on drugs is the High Times Encyclopedia of Recreational Drugs (1978), which contains a strong section on cannabis by Michael Aldrich.
    Finally, a fairly complete bibliography of items on the scientific aspects of marijuana is Marihuana: An Annotated Bibliography (1976), by Coy W. Waller, Jacqueline J. Johnson, Judy Buelke, and Carlton E. Turner.

Selected Bibliography

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