All kinds of books pair well with weed, from the headiest philosophy to the most escapist fantasy or science fiction. However, the following list of game-changing cannabis books will focus squarely on tomes dealing directly or indirectly with the plant itself, while still running the gamut of novels, memoirs, how-to, science, creative non-fiction, history, cookbooks, and humor.
Twelve books in all, presented here in chronological order, not just for sake of easy reference, but to better tell a story that’s unfolded over many years.
The Artificial Paradises (1860)
by Charles Baudelaire
In 1840, Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau put out a few invitations to Paris’ leading writers and artists, with the rather sensible assumption that the offer of altered consciousness would appeal to the creative class. And wouldn’t you know it, when the Club des Hashischins (Hashish Club) met for the first time, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, and many other members of the French intelligentsia were in attendance.
While Baudelaire never quite became a hashish-head, he did decide to write The Artificial Paradises, a book about his own experiences getting high and his observations of others. Here’s a favorite passage:
“The brain and the organism upon which hashish operates will only give their ordinary and individual phenomena, magnified, it is true, both in quantity and quality, but always faithful to their origin. Man cannot escape the fatality of his moral and physical temperament. Hashish will be, indeed, for the impressions and familiar thoughts of the man, a mirror which magnifies, yet no more than a mirror.”
The LaGuardia Report (1944)
Prepared by the New York Academy of Medicine
In 1944, New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia at last released the findings of a blue-ribbon panel he’d convened and tasked with making a full scientific investigation of cannabis based on all previous research plus their own experiments.
Issued as The LaGuardia Report (and later released as a book), the landmark paper boasted the endorsement of the prestigious New York Academy of Medicine, which helped supply the panel with eminent doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, pharmacologists, chemists and sociologists. The report, in brief, concluded:
“Prolonged use of the drug does not lead to physical, mental, or moral degeneration, nor have we observed any permanent deleterious effects from its continued use. Quite the contrary, marihuana and its derivatives and allied synthetics have potentially valuable therapeutic applications which merit future investigation.”
The prestigious report shot down pretty much every one of Harry J. Anslinger’s central arguments against cannabis. But a rebuttal featured in the April 28, 1945 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association fought back so dirty that many insiders suspected Anslinger himself of writing it.
“Already the book has done harm,” The JAMA editorial unequivocally declared, referring to The LaGuardia Report. “One investigator has described some tearful parents who brought their 16-year-old son to a physician after he had been detected in the act of smoking marijuana. A noticeable mental deterioration had been evident for some time, even to their lay minds. The boy said he had read the LaGuardia Committee Report and that this was his justification for using marijuana.”