Not kidding: my Facebook feed delivered a video on harvesting scorpion venom for its potential medicinal properties. Close-ups of milking deadly arachnids are as hard to unsee as their absurdity is to unfeel: why would scientists would risk life and limb when overflowing-with-medicinal-potential cannabis plants are common, available, and can’t sting them to death?
I smoothed my thoroughly harshed mellow by replacing the words “scorpion venom” with “cannabis” in my mind. Yet the urge to unravel the cruelties of cannabis’ prohibition now feels more important than ever. To do that, we desperately need to understand how things got so raveled in the first place. Following are The 10 Best Books on Why We Fight for Cannabis.
The Emperor Wears No Clothes, by Jack Herer
Since it was written over 30 years ago by one of the seminal figures in the cannabis legalization revolution (that’s one way to get a strain named after you), The Emperor Wears No Clothes is one of the earliest deep dives into the sordid history of Prohibition dreamed up by the unholy trinity of DuPont/Hearst/Anslinger. The book has sold more than 600,000 copies. In an enduring Finger to The Man, Herer’s family has provided the text of the book for free online.
Jesse Ventura’s Marijuana Manifesto, by Jesse Ventura
Here’s a spike strip across the race track from the guy whose signature movie line was, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Just last year, former Minnesota Governor, pro wrestler, movie star, and Navy sailor Jesse Ventura delivered his bombastic new addition to the cannabis canon, Jesse Ventura’s Marijuana Manifesto. It’s a full-throated howl for common sense against The War on Drugs. I remain amazed and encouraged when otherwise scary libertarians like Ventura, Roger Stone, Dana Rohrabacher, and Grover Norquist jump into our fight.
Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America
It never ceases to amaze how many qualified advisors recommended making cannabis legal, regulated, and safe, like alcohol, during the pivotal moments of Prohibition. In the 1930’s, Harry Anslinger rejected the advice; in the 1970’s Nixon did the same. In Grass Roots, “historian Emily Dufton tells the remarkable story of marijuana’s crooked path from acceptance to demonization and back again, and of the thousands of grassroots activists who made changing marijuana laws their life’s work.” Books like Dufton’s remind us of who the giants are on whose shoulders we stand.
Cannabinoids and the Brain by Linda A. Parker
Just the other day, a respected publisher told me he had been dubious, years ago, when the cannabis legalization movement aligned behind “medical marijuana”. He’d thought this strategy was insincere and would backfire. He then quickly admitted that the overwhelming evidence of the lifesaving potential of cannabis – see Alexis Bortell, and Rylie Maedler to name just two – had proven him wrong. In case you have doubts of your own, check out Cannabinoids and the Brain published by MIT Press. Which is where one might expect to find a book by the Professor in the Psychology and Collaborative Neuroscience Program and Canada Research Chair in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Guelph.
Cannabis for Chronic Pain by Dr. Rav Ivker
If I say, “Thirty percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain” you might shrug, so my good friends at WebMD say it more forcefully: 100 million Americans have chronic pain. Two observations here: 1) opioids are often prescribed for chronic pain and 2) over two million Americans are estimated to be dependent on opioids, and an additional 95 million used prescription painkillers in the past year — more than used tobacco (NY Times). But there is hope in cannabis, which has never caused an overdose death in all known history. Dr. Rav Ivker has treated more than 6,000 chronic pain patients with cannabis. His book, Cannabis for Chronic Pain, documents his work. “If you are suffering from arthritis, back pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, menstrual cramps, IBS, Crohn’s Disease, anxiety, depression, or pain from cancer or its treatment, this may be the book for you.”
The Cannabis Manifesto by Steve DeAngelo
Industry experts instantly recognize the braids and dandy fedoras worn by Steve DeAngelo, the CEO of Harborside, an Oakland-based cannabis dispensary business that reportedly makes $50 Million per year. Fewer realize DeAngelo is a front-line advocate for legalization, who fought the US Government when they tried to take it all away, demanding “a courtroom large enough for “every single one of the 220,000 patients who depend on us for health care.” When he won, we all won. His beliefs about cannabis wellness are hard-won and he’s an eloquent spokesman. The Cannabis Manifesto should be on your bookshelf.
Marihuana: The First 12,000 Years by Ernest L. Abel
This book was chosen for the Top 10 Cannabis Books list because of its deep historical dive into the millennia-long relationship of cannabis and humans. The title is based on an archaeological site in Taiwan more than 10,000-years old, which contained evidence of cannabis use in fiber and pottery (the spelling of ‘marihuana’ is obviously a political jibe). Further evidence is found in Africa, the Middle East, India, Europe, and of course, the New World, where farmers were required by law to grow it. It’s critical to understand the depth and breadth of cannabis historical use to humankind. A nice bonus: this book is available for free online.
Smoke Signals by Martin A. Lee
The best writers on controversial subjects make you want to climb the barricades and throw rocks with them. (If you’ve read all the books on this list so far, you’re probably warming up your throwing arm.) When The Man hauls you in, you’ll want Smoke Signals by investigative journalist Martin A. Lee in your pocket. Not only will it make a great pillow, it’s high on attitude, brimming with facts, and presented with the righteous sauce of a true believer. Get it.
Breaking the Grass Ceiling: Women, Weed & Business, by Ashley Picillo and Lauren Devine
In Breaking the Grass Ceiling, Picillo and Devine have compiled 21 biographical stories of “powerful, driven and courageous women who have been instrumental in paving the way into the cannabis industry for many—especially other women.” Subjects include such cannabis luminaries as Giadha Aguirre de Carcer, Diane Fornbacher, Genifer Murray, Dr. Sue Sisley, and Meg Sanders, this book might inspire you to seek, or perhaps become, a person described like Jaime Lewis: a “total powerhouse”, “badass” and “the most sincere of friends”.
The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cannabis: Concentrated Advice from 25 Cannabis Industry Leaders by Michael Zaytsev
Rounding out the Top 10 Best Books on Why We Fight for Cannabis is an inspirational guide to starting a successful business in the cannabis industry. Because what better way to provide safe and healing products for millions of people, and create jobs and taxes that support communities, than to build a great business? Here you’ll find the wisdom and experience of industry legends like Ethan Nadelmann, Steve DeAngelo (Harborside Dispensaries), Cy Scott (Leafly), Allen Bankier (New York Angels), Charlo Green (“F*ck it, I quit”), Christi Lunsford (founder of Endocannabinoidology), and Scott Greiper (Viridian Capital Advisors). Read, listen, think, act.