Cover image for Cannabis : a history
Cannabis : a history
Booth, Martin.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2004.

Physical Description:
xii, 354 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV5822.C3 B66 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



To some it's the classic "gateway drug", to others it is a harmless way to relax, or provide relief from crippling pain. Some fear it is a dangerous drug with addictive properties; to others still it is a legal anomaly and should be decriminalized. Whatever the viewpoint, and by whatever name it is known, cannabis--or marijuana, hashish, dope, pot, weed, grass, ganja--incites debate at every level, and the effect it has on the cultures and economics of every corner of the globe is undeniable.

In this definitive study, Martin Booth crafts a tale of medical advance, religious enlightenment, political subterfuge and human rights; of law enforcement and custom officers, cunning smugglers, street pushers, gang warfare, writers, artists, musicians, and happy-go-lucky hippies and potheads.

Booth chronicles the fascinating and often mystifying process through which cannabis, a relatively harmless substance, became outlawed throughout the Western world, and the devastating effect such legislation has on the global economy. Above all, he demonstrates how the case for decriminalization remains one of the twenty-first century's hottest topics.

Author Notes

Martin Booth (September 7, 1944-February 12, 2004) was a prolific British novelist and poet. He also worked as a teacher and screenwriter, and was the founder of the Sceptre Press. Booth died after an 18-month struggle with cancer in 2004.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Booth chronicles that adaptive and highly successful annual found . . . throughout the temperate and tropical zones, cannabis, with the panache he exhibited in Opium (1998). Though the noble plant's precise origins are hazy, the name cannabis probably evolved from antecedents meaning fragrant cane. Whatever it has been called, it has been beloved and reviled by personages ranging from twelfth-century Sufi monks, who chewed it for its mood-altering properties, to anti-pot Depression-era federal agent Harry Anslinger and today's drug warriors. Favored by poets (Coleridge sought to wean himself from opium with it), musicians and actors (Gene Krupa and Robert Mitchum, both busted in Anslinger's star-bust campaign ), and worse (black-magician Aleister Crowley, who put it in his recreational-substance armamentarium). Besides famous users, Booth discusses home-growing ganja and present-day international trafficking in it, though from a British perspective. His pithy coverage of Rastafarians is a particular treat. While no brief for legalization, Cannabis objectively raises points and issues threatening to zero-tolerance environments; more open collections, however, should welcome it. --Mike Tribby Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Quick?what do Napoleon's troops, Asian cooking, Armani jeans, the Gutenberg Bible and the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company have in common? According to British novelist Booth (Opium; Hiroshima Joe; etc.), all of these have used some part of the versatile cannabis plant. In this densely packed, wide-ranging history, Booth draws on religion, history, ecology, horticulture, linguistics, pop culture and medical research to correct the falsehoods surrounding the oft-banned plant and to painstakingly build his case that the war on cannabis has little to do with concerns for public health or order. Along the way, Booth introduces a dizzying parade of historical persons that includes visionaries, scientists, beatniks, farmers, artists, soldiers and smugglers. Unlike many of the other more partisan books on cannabis, the overall tone of Booth's volume is objective, unemotional and factual-a stance that makes for fine impartial argument, but also occasionally dull reading. At its best, however, the book's attention to detail lures the reader ever more deeply into cannabis history. Descriptions of hip, mid-century New York, London and Amsterdam, for example, help illuminate the role of cannabis in more recent cultural movements. And a quick survey of the myths about the drug's psychological effects shows how laws banning cannabis were often used as an excuse to suppress blacks and migrant Mexican workers. Booth also discusses provocative legal, political and economic actions (for and against cannabis) that have affected millions of people. In his profile of a plant that can be an intoxicant, fiber, cooking ingredient, medicine and potential source of environmentally friendly products, he gives readers a fascinating sourcebook about "the most widely produced, trafficked and used illicit drug on earth." Photos. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

Booth, author of a sweeping history of opium, now offers a global history of cannabis, especially its production and uses as hashish and marijuana. In doing so, he tracks the plant's biological, pharmaceutical, medicinal, religious, cultural, literary, social, and regulatory history from ancient China and India, through the Middle East and Africa, into Europe and the Americas, and finally to middle-class American suburbs, Amsterdam coffee shops, and recording studios everywhere today. Cannabis has proved a versatile and variable plant, spreading on the trade winds and through commerce, conquest, and countercultures. Booth does much to debunk the many myths surrounding cannabis and the onus as a supposed stimulant for violent, antisocial, Communist, and other disruptive behavior with which antidrug forces sought to link it, instead pointing out its often beneficial effects in art, literature, music, and pain relief and its benign effect on human relations. Booth tips his hand for the decriminalization of marijuana but otherwise gives a remarkably "cool" account of a plant that people round the world, to paraphrase the Beatles, had to get into their lives. Get this book instead.ARandall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.