If you’ve ever wondered WHY cannabis is illegal federally in the United States, read Martin A. Lee’s excellent book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational, and Scientific (Scribner, 2013). It will blow your mind and hopefully open your eyes to the misleading information we’ve all received from our government about cannabis.
We’ve been listening to the audio book of Smoke Signals from Audible on a two-week long road trip and am mesmerized by the rich, deep historical view of our country’s contradictory and, at times, absurd relationship with hemp and cannabis. The book actually starts out in ancient times in other parts of the world where cannabis and hemp were used for ritual, healing, medicinal and industrial purposes. We had no idea that many of our country’s Founding Fathers were hemp entrepreneurs.
The book moves through America’s formative years through the early 20th century when prohibitionist mindsets began to take hold based on bias and fear of anything and anyone foreign or “alien.”
A few misguided, zealous individuals were put into positions of control in the U.S. government and systematically began campaigns to vilify a once revered, versatile and beneficial plant.
[See our review of the book The Poisoner’s Handbook for another historical view of the misguided and dangerous nature of prohibition.]
Revealing the role of cannabis in numerous creative culture revolutions and counter culture movements from Jazz to Flower Power and beyond, Smoke Signals is a fascinating look at what most of us have been missing and misunderstanding about cannabis, hemp and their derivatives. Many other countries, besides the United States, are far ahead in their understanding of the many benefits of these plants. Let’s hope our own government opens their eyes and minds to the dangerous prohibition on cannabis. In the meanwhile, get yourself a copy of Smoke Signals, and spread the word!