Cannabis has a long history in the United States that can be traced from the early days of drug prohibition through its current green age of legalization. The approach of 4/20, the plant's unofficial holiday, offers a chance to brush up on the history and science behind the controversial drug. Here are six books about cannabis cultivation and the history of marijuana in America.
'Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America' by Emily Dufton (2017)
In her debut book, historian Emily Dufton published what Kirkus Reviews dubbed "a comprehensive history of marijuana legalization in America." Dufton puts "years of dedicated research, interviews, and social scrutiny to impressive use in this cannabis saga." She traces the roots of the marijuana movement to a moment in the mid-1960s when a grassroots cannabis activist in San Francisco "politely asked to be arrested for smoking pot," through the onset of the war on drugs and beyond. In Grass Roots, Dufton offers an "engrossing, evenhanded timeline of the marijuana legalization revolution and its backlash," Kirkus Reviews adds. "Grass Roots tells the tale of America's roller coaster relationship with weed," Book Riot commented, "and comments on the wider state of U.S. drug laws along the way." Order here.
'Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America' by Bruce Barcott (2015)
As America's perception of cannabis continues to shift, Rolling Stone Magazine says Bruce Barcott's Weed the People "attempts to bring readers a closer step into the future by addressing the potential issues and questions that may arise as marijuana legalization spans the country." Barcott seeks to answer emerging questions as more states turn to legalization, such as "Would neighborhoods permit a weed shop near their grocery stores?" or "How do parents have these conversations with their children?" Rolling Stone says.
"My two-year expedition into the marijuana world left me more suspicious of government authority and more hopeful about the common sense of most Americans," Barcott writes. " A self-described coastal liberal," Bloomberg said, "he's written a love letter to cannabis capitalism that Rand Paul could endorse." Order here.
'Cannabis Grower's Handbook: The Complete Guide to Marijuana and Hemp Cultivation' by Ed Rosenthal, Dr. Robert Flannery, and Angela Bacca (2021)
Ed Rosenthal has been educating prospective cannabis cultivators for decades. In the late '70s, his Marijuana Grower's Handbook garnered praise from Tommy Chong and The New York Times. Rolling Stone called it "a must-have item for those looking to get into the cultivation game." In 2021 he collaborated with a team of botanists, industry consultants, and scientists to give an updated guide on the tools of the trade called the Cannabis Grower's Handbook. "If my other books helped you grow, Cannabis Grower's Handbook will take you to new highs," Rosenthal said. If you're looking for a comprehensive take on the latest tech in the cannabis cultivation scene, this book is a good start. Order here.
'Bong Appétit: Mastering the Art of Cooking with Weed' by the editors of Munchies (2018)
Curious about going the culinary route to explore cannabis? Look no further than Bong Appétit, brought to you by the editors of Munchies and the team behind Viceland's series by the same name. The cookbook has a "comprehensive introduction" to cannabis cooking, the Los Angeles Times said, including topics like "dosing, techniques, methods of decarboxylation and infusion, cannabis pairing tips, questions to ask your dispensary, tips on equipment, and more." in addition to providing 65 recipes developed in the Munchies test kitchen, Bong Appétit goes over the science of creating cannabis extractions, "so even the most novice consumer can take part in the fun," Rolling Stone writes.
"Sober instructions and intoxicating flavors make for an intriguing blend in this high-minded effort," Publisher's Weekly mused in a review. Order here.
'Green: A Field Guide to Marijuana' by Dan Michaels (with photos by Erik Christiansen)
Green: A Field Guide to Marijuana, an "eye-popping coffee-table textbook," is "required reading for those dedicated to studying cannabis strains and admiring their intricacies through hyper-detailed photography of individual buds," Forbes said. Written by Dan Michaels, and featuring photography by Erik Christiansen, the book "explores the culture of this complex flower," Forbes added, "while explaining the botany that makes each varietal unique through descriptions of lineage, flavor, and type of high." The book features 208 pages where Michaels and Christiansen "breakdown, identify, and elevate marijuana," Rolling Stone said. "Prepare yourself for shots so close up, you'll finally understand how a green plant can also be purple." Order here.
'It's NORML to Smoke Pot: The 40 Year Fight for Marijuana Smokers' Rights' by Keith Stroup (2013)
Since founding NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) in 1970, Keith Strop has been advocating for marijuana legalization. In It's NORML to Smoke Pot, his first-ever personal account of the organization's "tumultuous-turned-victorious history," Strop "will introduce you to the colorful cast of characters like Hunter S. Thompson and Willie Nelson who helped along the way and give you behind-the-scenes insight into how prohibition shaped political policy today," Forbes wrote. Order here.
Other notable cannabis books:
The Cannabis Manifesto by Steve DeAngelo (2015); Marijuana Grower's Handbook: Your Complete Guide for Medical and Personal Marijuana Cultivation by Ed Rosenthal (1978); The Cannabis Dictionary by Alex Halperin (2020); The New Chardonnay: The Unlikely Story of How Marijuana Went Mainstream by Heather Cabot (2020); Higher Etiquette: A Guide to the World of Cannabis, from Dispensaries to Dinner Parties by Lizzie Post (2019)