Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific

( 6 )


The bestselling coauthor of Acid Dreams tells the great American pot story—a panoramic, character-driven saga that examines the medical, recreational, scientific, and economic dimensions of the world’s most controversial plant.

Martin A. Lee traces the dramatic social history of marijuana from its origins to its emergence in the 1960s as a defining force in a culture war that has never ceased. Lee describes how the illicit marijuana subculture ...

See more details below
$26.16 price
(Save 25%)$35.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (26) from $4.97   
  • New (12) from $7.50   
  • Used (14) from $4.97   
Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$13.11 price


The bestselling coauthor of Acid Dreams tells the great American pot story—a panoramic, character-driven saga that examines the medical, recreational, scientific, and economic dimensions of the world’s most controversial plant.

Martin A. Lee traces the dramatic social history of marijuana from its origins to its emergence in the 1960s as a defining force in a culture war that has never ceased. Lee describes how the illicit marijuana subculture overcame government opposition and morphed into a dynamic, multibillion-dollar industry.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Similar laws have followed in more than a dozen other states, but not without antagonistic responses from federal, state, and local law enforcement. Lee, an award-winning investigative journalist, draws attention to underreported scientific breakthroughs that are reshaping the therapeutic lanscape. By mining the plant’s rich pharmacopoeia, medical researchers have developed promising treatments for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, chronic pain, and many other conditions that are beyond the reach of coventional cures.

Colorful, illuminating, and irreverent, Smoke Signals is a fascinating read for recreational users and patients, students and doctors, musicians and accountants, Baby Boomers and their kids, and anyone who has ever wondered about the secret life of this ubiquitous drug.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this accessible and well-researched analysis, Lee (Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond) offers a cultural reckoning of cannabis in its many incarnations, spanning from its first recorded utilization in 2700 B.C.E. to the present, but focusing primarily on its societal reputation and legal history in the U.S. Lee illumes the current hyperbolic political rhetoric surrounding cannabis against the backdrop of its status a century ago when one could order hashish candies from the Sears-Roebuck catalogue. His account proves to be unapologetically pro-legalization, tending to exonerate cannabis as being a solution devoid of any side effects or repercussions. When discussing the disparity between positive scientific or medical findings concerning cannabis and its modern vilification, Lee cites factors such as puritanical value systems, vested pharmaceutical and liquor lobbyists, and the economic profit of "drug seizures" by law enforcement. At times, Lee’s zealous championing of the legalization of cannabis as a panacea feels jejune and skewed, and his use of folksy prose can sometimes be distracting. Nevertheless, the book remains a compelling read and an excellent source of information on the topic. (Aug.)
High Times - Jonah Raskin
“Hallelujah and glory be to Smoke Signals, Martin Lee’s bodacious new book…[Lee] chronicles everything and everyone worth chronicling in the annals of marijuana.”
West Coast Leaf
Thisis a brilliant book . . . Smoke Signals is destined to be a classic.
— Mikki Norris
Library Journal
In this exhaustive argument for the legalization of marijuana, framed as a history of the famous weed, Lee (Acid Dreams) asserts that the official U.S. response to marijuana cultivation, distribution, and use has long been wildly out of proportion to marijuana's impact on its diverse users and on society at large. While countless people—disproportionately poor and of color—have been criminalized through prohibition enforcement during the rhetoric-laden War on Drugs, Lee notes that no death from marijuana overdose has ever been reported and that the ill effects of alcohol, nicotine, and prescription painkillers (all products of industries that contribute heavily to anti-marijuana efforts) vastly outweigh those of marijuana. Indeed, he basically eschews the concept of ill effects of marijuana, citing numerous studies that indicate a breathtaking range of medical benefits. Featuring a huge cast of activists, doctors, patients, distributors, decriers, judges, bureaucrats, and elected officials, Lee's sprawling, not impartial, thoroughly documented survey comprises an untiring compendium of police harassment incidents, success stories of pot as palliative, and cases of governmental disregard for (or suppression of) scientific research. VERDICT Important but not succinct or objective, this work should nonetheless interest policymakers, researchers, legalization sympathizers, and the curious. [See Prepub Alert, 2/20/12.]—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus
Library Journal
While investigative reporter Lee (Acid Dreams) does discuss the social history of marijuana, his focuses just as much on the often underreported scientific research showing how helpful it is in treating cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and more. Serious stuff.
Kirkus Reviews
Everybody must get…well, hip to the history of hemp and all the hobgoblins that made it heinous. Thus the seeming intent of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) founder Lee's (The Beast Reawakens, 1997, etc.) tome, a tale of "a remarkable plant that befriended our ancestors." If that sounds a little too inauspiciously H.R. Pufnstuf, the author counters the groove with a tough Texas cop, decidedly unhip with his "jingly spurs," who tells anyone who'll listen that the war on drugs is a sham and scam. Smoking a doobie isn't the worst thing a person could do, said cop avers, and Lee backs that thought up with social history aplenty, ranging from neolithic experiments down to the Kerouac-ian consumers of the Beat Era. (Of the bop jazz soundtrack of that time, the author writes, "[t]he music and the weed were fellow travelers, so to speak, joined at the juncture of hip.") A little righteous paranoia kicks in when Lee looks at the genesis of the Harrison Act, which taxed the production and distribution of opiates. Suffice it to say that the author attributes the anti-hemp tenor to some financial interests on the part of DuPont's "chief financial backer," Andrew Mellon, who aimed to block a "natural alternative" to nascent Big Pharma. There's no smoking gun there, but there's smoke aplenty in between thick, chunky blocks of scientific lore on such matters as the "discovery of the endocannabinoid system" and claims that cannabidiol, a major constituent of the plant, "lowers glucose levels, improves insulin sensitivity, and protects the health of diabetic patients' hearts"--and a good thing, too, for readers tempted to head down to Ben & Jerry's for a double scoop of Cherry Garcia while taking a break from Lee's long, earnest and sometimes plaintive text. The author provides plenty of interesting material, but sometimes it's laid on a little too thick. Readers will understand very quickly that pot should be legal and that it's not the scourge that square politicos have made it out to be.
Douglas Brinkley
Smoke Signals is an important, serious-minded look at the role cannabis has played in American history. He tackles the hard issues of marijuana prohibition with keen insight and righteous indignation. I agree with Lee’s central premise that our marijuana laws are draconian. Every American should read this landmark book!”
West Coast Leaf - Mikki Norris
“This is a brilliant book . . . Smoke Signals is destined to be a classic.”
From the Publisher
"A ripping read, thoroughly researched, Smoke Signals will help inform the current debate and hopefully hasten the demise of prohibition." —David Bronner, CEO, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

"[A] well-reasoned, entertainingly written, and passionate examination of the social and culture war that surrounds the drug."—Booklist

"In this accessible and well-researched analysis, Lee offers a cultural reckoning of cannabis in its many incarnations, spanning from its first recorded utilization in 2700 B.C.E. to the present...a compelling read and an excellent source of information on the topic."—Publishers Weekly

"Smoking a doobie isn’t the worst thing a person could do...and Lee backs that thought up with social history aplenty, ranging from neolithic experiments down to the Kerouac-ian consumers of the Beat Era."—Kirkus Reviews

"Lee…imagines a bright, legal, lucrative future for weed.”—Business Week

Jacob Sullum
“As Martin A. Lee shows in Smoke Signals, his engaging and illuminating new history, marijuana’s contraband status is a result of historical accident, racial prejudice, xenophobia, loads of cultural baggage, and an astonishing amount of ignorance.”
David J. Brown
“Lee’s new book is the precise educational tool that our country currently needs . . . Smoke Signals should be required reading in every high school history class.”
James Hughes
“[A] clearheaded survey that stretches from 2700 B.C. to the Obama administration.”
Anna Diaz
“[A] delightful surprise . . . impossible to put down.”
Drug War Chronicle - Phil Smith
"[T]he best, most comprehensive account of the American marijuana movement(s) to date . . . Smoke Signals is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the contemporary marijuana movement."
High Times
“Hallelujah and glory be to Smoke Signals, Martin Lee’s bodacious new book…[Lee] chronicles everything and everyone worth chronicling in the annals of marijuana.”
Boston Globe
“[E]xuberant, richly researched.”
Detroit Metro Times
"High but not dry...a lively and informative book.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439102602
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 8/14/2012
  • Pages: 519
  • Sales rank: 615,831
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin A. Lee is the author of three books, including Acid Dreams and The Beast Reawakens. He is the cofounder and director of Project CBD, an educational service that monitors and reports on developments in cannabinoid science and therapeutics.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


The tall, mustached Texan on horseback looks like the quintessential cowboy with his Stetson hat, red bandana, dusty boots, and jingly spurs. His sunburned arms and leathery face show the wear and tear of a rugged outdoorsman. But Howard Wooldridge isn’t your typical cowboy. He’s a retired police detective who’s riding across the country to promote a provocative message—legalize marijuana and other drugs.

Wooldridge, then fifty-four, and his trusty, one-eyed mare, Misty, began their journey in Los Angeles in March 2005, and it would end seven months and 3,300 miles later in New York City. With a bedroll and a bag of carrots tied behind the saddle, they clippety-clopped from coast to coast, attracting attention and generating press coverage as they passed through cities and towns. Along the way, they had to contend with rattlesnakes in Arizona and New Mexico, and the blistering summer heat of the Great Plains. With the exception of a few death threats, the folks they encountered were usually friendly and many offered the veteran lawman a meal and a place to stay overnight. “The horse is a wonderful vehicle because people relate to the cowboy cop image,” Wooldridge explained. “Then we start talking politics.”

Another surefire attention-grabber was the T-shirt he often wore, with the slogan: COPS SAY LEGALIZE DRUGS. ASK ME WHY.

During his transcontinental trek, Wooldridge lectured on criminal-justice issues at several colleges and universities. He spoke in a disarmingly folksy “Yes, ma’am” manner as he challenged students and other citizens to rethink their ideas about marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs. Wooldridge discussed his eighteen years as a police officer in Michigan and how he never once received a call for help from a battered housewife or anyone else because of marijuana. Yet Lansing-area cops spent countless hours searching cars and frisking teenagers in order to find some weed when the police could have been addressing far more serious matters.

“Marijuana prohibition is a horrible waste of good police time,” says Wooldridge. “Every hour spent looking for pot reduces public safety.” Based on his experience as a peace officer, he concluded that “marijuana is a much safer drug than alcohol for both the user and those around them . . . Alcohol releases reckless, aggressive or violent feelings by its use. Marijuana use generates the opposite effects in the vast majority of people.” Officer Wooldridge decided to protect and serve the public by focusing on booze-impaired motorists. His efforts earned him the nickname “Highway Howie” and kudos from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Wooldridge did not condone or advocate drug use of any kind, but he had enough horse sense to recognize that by banning marijuana the U.S. government “essentially drives many people to drink.” He felt that a substance should be judged by the actual harm it poses to the community. “From a law-enforcement standpoint,” Wooldridge asserted, “the use of marijuana is not a societal problem . . . America needs to end pot prohibition.”

Convinced that the laws against marijuana were a lot wackier than the weed, Wooldridge and several ex-cops formed a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in 2002. Before long, LEAP would grow into a 40,000-member international organization composed of former prosecutors, undercover narcotics agents, judges, prison wardens, constables, and other disillusioned government functionaries who, after years of toiling in the trenches of a conflict with no conceivable end, had come to view the war on drugs as a colossal failure that fostered crime, police corruption, social discord, racial injustice, and, ironically, drug abuse itself, while squandering billions of tax dollars, clogging courtrooms and prisons, weakening constitutional safeguards, and impeding medical advances. LEAP condemned the war on drugs as America’s longest-running bipartisan folly. Wooldridge called it “the most dysfunctional, immoral domestic policy since slavery and Jim Crow.”

When law-enforcement veterans defect from prohibitionist orthodoxy, their arguments tend to be particularly potent. But Wooldridge understood that LEAP’s views were very controversial. He knew that a long journey lay ahead, literally and figuratively, as he sought, one step at a time, to persuade Americans who had been exposed to years of government propaganda about the evils of marijuana. Many people reject the notion of legalizing drugs on moral and ideological grounds. They see marijuana first and foremost as a dangerous recreational drug, a harbinger of social decay. They believe the oft-repeated claim that smoking grass is a gateway to harder drugs.

The “devil’s weed” has long been a favorite target of U.S. officials who misstate or exaggerate the physical and psychological effects of “cannabis,” the preferred name for marijuana in medical and scientific circles. Although cannabis has a rich history as a medicine in many countries around the world, including the United States, federal drug warriors erected a labyrinth of legal and institutional obstacles to inhibit research and prevent the therapeutic use of the herb. They assembled a network of more than fifty government agencies and waged a relentless campaign against the marijuana “scourge,” a crusade that entailed sophisticated aerial surveillance, paramilitary raids, border patrols, sensors, eradication sweeps, the spraying of herbicides, national TV ads, antidrug classes in schools, and mandatory-minimum prison terms for marijuana offenders, including an inordinate number of black and Latino youth.

In 2005, the year that Wooldridge and Misty hoofed across the states, more than 750,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana-related charges, the vast majority for simple possession. And the tally would continue to grow, irrespective of who was president or which political party was in power. Despite billions of dollars allocated annually to curb cannabis consumption, half of all American adults smoke the funny stuff at some point in their lives. An estimated fifteen million U.S. citizens use marijuana regularly.

Marijuana is by far the most popular illicit substance in the United States, with 10,000 tons consumed yearly by Americans in their college dorms, suburban homes, housing projects, and gated mansions. Pot smoking cuts across racial, class, and gender lines. It has become such a prevalent, mainstream practice that cannabis users are apt to forget they are committing a criminal act every time they spark a joint.

The history of marijuana in America has long been a history of competing narratives, dueling interpretations. As Harvard professor Lester Grinspoon, M.D., observed in his 1971 book Marihuana Reconsidered, some “felt that the road to Hades is lined with marihuana plants” while others “felt that the pathway to Utopia was shaded by freely growing Cannabis sativa.” And so it continues. At the center of this dispute is a hardy, adaptable botanical that feasts on sunlight and grows like a weed in almost any environment. Marijuana plants are annuals that vary in height from three to fifteen feet with delicate serrated leaves spread like the fingers of an open hand. Ridged down the middle and diagonally veined, cannabis leaves are covered, as is the entire plant, with tiny, sticky hairs. The gooey resin on the leaves and matted flower tops contains dozens of unique oily compounds, some of which, when ingested, trigger neurochemical changes in the brain. The hotter and sunnier the climate, the more psychoactive resin the plant produces during a three-to-five-month outdoor growing season. Known for its euphoria-inducing properties, “hashish” or “kif” is the concentrate made from the resin of female marijuana.

Ancient peoples during the Neolithic period found uses for virtually every part of the plant, which has been cultivated by humans since the dawn of agriculture more than 10,000 years ago. The stems and stalk provided fiber for cordage and cloth; the seeds, a key source of essential fatty acids and protein, were eaten as food; and the roots, leaves, and flowers were utilized in medicinal and ritual preparations. A plant native to Central Asia, cannabis figured prominently in the shamanistic traditions of many cultures. Handed down from prehistoric times, knowledge of the therapeutic qualities of the herb and the utility of its tough fiber slowly spread throughout the world, starting from the Kush, the herb’s presumed ancestral homeland in the Himalayan foothills. The plant’s dispersal across Eurasia into northern Europe followed the extensive migratory movements of the Scythians, aggressive charioteers in the second millennium BC. A famous passage in Herodotus’ Histories (440 BC) refers to Scythians “howling with pleasure” in their hemp vapor baths.

Details gleaned from various academic disciplines—archaeology, history, anthropology, geography, botany, linguistics, and comparative mythology—indicate that marijuana’s historical diffusion proceeded along two divergent paths, reflecting its dual role as a fiber crop and a psychoactive flower. One path moved westward from China into northern Europe, where cooler climes favored rope over dope, while the other path, the psychoactive route, hewed to trade lines that swung southward into India, Persia, the Arab Middle East, and Africa. As it traveled from region to region, the pungent plant never failed to ingratiate itself among the locals. Something about the herb resonated with humankind. Once it arrived in a new place, cannabis always stayed there—while also moving on, perpetually leaping from one culture to another.

Recent archaeological findings confirm that marijuana was used for euphoric as well as medicinal purposes long before the birth of Christ. In 2008, an international research team analyzed a cache of cannabis discovered at a remote gravesite in northwest China. The well-preserved flower tops had been buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, most likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, about twenty-seven centuries ago. Biochemical analysis demonstrated that the herb contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. “To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent,” concluded Dr. Ethan Russo, lead author of the scientific study. “It was clearly cultivated for psychoactive purposes” rather than for clothing or food.

The first reference to the medicinal use of cannabis also dates back to 2700 BC. It was subsequently recorded in the Pen Ts’ao Ching, the pharmacopeia of Emperor Shen Nung, the father of traditional Chinese medicine. Credited with having introduced the custom of drinking tea, Shen Nung recommended “ma” (marijuana) for more than a hundred ailments, including “female weakness, gout, rheumatism, malaria, constipation, beri-beri, and absent-mindedness.” Shen Nung called “ma” one of the “Supreme Elixirs of Immortality.” “If one takes it over a long period of time, one can communicate with spirits, and one’s body becomes light,” the Pen Ts’ao Ching advises. When consumed in excess, however, it “makes people see demons.” Chinese physicians employed a mixture of cannabis and alcohol as a painkiller in surgical procedures.

In India, cannabis consumption had long been part of Hindu worship and Ayurvedic medical practice. According to ancient Vedic texts, the psychoactive herb was “a gift to the world from the god Shiva”—where the nectar of immortality landed on earth, ganja sprang forth. Longevity and good health were attributed to this plant, which figured prominently in Indian social life as a recreant, a religious sacrament, and a household remedy. Hindu holy men smoked hashish and drank bhang (a cannabis-infused cordial) as an aid to devotion and meditation. Folk healers relied on ganja, “the food of the gods,” for relieving anxiety, lowering fevers, overcoming fatigue, enhancing appetite, improving sleep, clearing phlegm, and a plethora of other medical applications. Cannabis flower tops were said to sharpen the intellect and impel the flow of words. “So grand a result, so tiny a sin,” the Vedic wise men concurred. There are no less than fifty Sanskrit and Hindu names for cannabis, all praising its attributes.

It’s been said that language reflects the soul of a people. Eskimos have dozens of words for snowflakes, which underscores the centrality of snow in Inuit culture. So, too, with cannabis nomenclature: The versatile herb has generated an abundance of terms in many languages.

Cannabis comes from the Greek word Kannabis, which is related to the Sanskrit root canna, meaning “cane.” In the Old Testament, kanna-bosm (Aramaic for “fragrant cane”) is identified as an ingredient of the holy anointing oil, a topical applied by Hebrew mystics and early Christian healers. Galen, the influential Greek physician (second century AD), wrote of the medicinal properties of kannabis, but also noted that the herb was mixed with wine and served at banquets for pleasure. The first botanical illustration of the plant in Western literature appears in a Byzantine manuscript (AD 512) of Dioscorides, whose Materia Medica is the foundation for all modern pharmacopeias; he recommended covering inflamed body parts with soaked cannabis roots. Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who laid the foundations for modern plant taxonomy, christened it Cannabis sativa in 1753.

Hemp, the common English name for cannabis through modern times, usually refers to northern varieties of the plant grown for rope, paper, fabric, oil, or other industrial uses. It derives from the Anglo-Saxon henep or haenep. Differences in climate account for the paucity of hemp’s resinous secretion compared with its psychoactive twin closer to the equator.

Of the multitude of terms associated with the cannabis plant, marijuana is the most universally recognized and widely used within the English-speaking world (even though it is not actually an English word). Marijuana is a Spanish-language colloquialism of uncertain origin; it was popularized in the United States during the 1930s by advocates of prohibition who sought to exploit prejudice against despised minority groups, especially Mexican immigrants. Intended as a derogatory slur, “marihuana”—spelled with a j or h—quickly morphed into an outsized American myth.

Slang words for marijuana in English are legion—grass, reefer, tea, pot, dope, weed, bud, skunk, blunt, Mary Jane, spliff, chronic, doobie, muggles, cowboy tobacco, hippie lettuce . . . And there are nearly as many terms for getting high, stoned, buzzed, blitzed, medicated. One could fill dictionaries with the shifting jargon related to cannabis. The profusion of idiomatic expression is in part an indication of the plant’s unique allure as well as the perceived need for discretion and code words among users of the most sought-after illegal commodity on the planet. According to a 2009 United Nations survey, an estimated 166 million people worldwide—one in every twenty-five people between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five—have either tried marijuana or are active users of the herb.

Today, there is scarcely any place on earth that cannabis or its resinous derivatives are not found. A cannabis underground thrives from Greenland to Auckland to Tierra del Fuego. What accounts for marijuana’s broad and enduring appeal? Why do so many people risk persecution and imprisonment to consume the forbidden fruit? Does cannabis cast an irresistible spell that bewitches its users? Is the herb addictive, as some allege? What happens when a society uses marijuana on a mass scale?

It is difficult to generalize about cannabis, given that its effects are highly variable, even in small doses. When large doses are imbibed, all bets are off. Marijuana can change one’s mood, but not always in a predictable way. Immediate physiological effects include the lowering of body temperature and an aroused appetite. Flavors seem to jump right out of food. Realms of touch and taste and smell are magnified under the herb’s influence. Quickened mental associations and a robust sense of humor are often accompanied by a tendency to become hyperfocused—“wrapped in wild observation of everything,” as Jack Kerouac, the Beat scribe, put it. Similarly, Michael Pollan touted the “italicization of experience” that cannabis confers, “this seemingly virginal noticing of the sensate world.”

There are detailed descriptions of the marijuana experience in literature that attest to the herb’s capriciousness, its tricksterlike qualities. A cannabis-induced altered state can be calming or stimulating, soothing or nerve-racking, depending on any number of factors, including an individual’s personality and expectations. Many people enjoy the relaxed intensity of the marijuana high; some find it decidedly unpleasant. It can make the strange seem familiar and the familiar very strange. Marijuana delinks habits of the mind, yet chronic use of the herb can also be habituating.

The marijuana saga is rife with paradox and polarity. It is all about doubles, twins, dualities: fiber and flower, medicine and menace, sacrament and recreant, gift and commodity. The plant itself grows outdoors and indoors. It thrives under a diurnal or a twenty-four-hour light cycle. It can be male or female, single-sex or hermaphroditic, psychoactive or nonpsychoactive. There are two principal types of cannabis—sativas and indicas. Recent scientific discoveries show that there are two sets of G-coupled protein receptors in the human brain and body that respond pharmacologically to cannabis. Marijuana’s therapeutic mechanism is bimodal; it acts upon both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, an unusual combination for a drug. Cannabis has biphasic properties, triggering opposite effects depending on dosage. As a healing herb, it is ancient as well as cutting-edge. It has been used as a curative and a preventive medicine. It is both prescribed and proscribed.

Cannabis has always lived a double life, and this also holds true for many marijuana smokers. An escape for some and a scapegoat for others, marijuana embodies the double-edged nature of the pharmakon, the ancient Greek word that signifies both remedy and sacrificial victim. Extolled and vilified, the weed is an inveterate boundary-crosser. Officially it is a controlled substance, but its use proliferates worldwide in an uncontrolled manner. It is simultaneously legal and illegal in more than a dozen U.S. states that have adopted medical-marijuana provisions.

California led the way in 1996, when voters in the Golden State broke ranks from America’s drug-war juggernaut and approved Proposition 215, the landmark ballot measure that legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. It’s been an ugly, fractious battle ever since, as the federal government, working in tandem with state and local law-enforcement officials, responded to the medical-marijuana groundswell by deploying quasi-military units against U.S. citizens, trashing homes, ripping up gardens, shutting down cannabis clubs, seizing property, threatening doctors, and prosecuting suppliers. Much more was at stake than the provision of a herbal remedy to ailing Americans.

Smoke Signals is a cautionary tale about U.S. government corruption and constitutional rights under attack. It tells the story of several exemplary characters who struggled against heavy odds, a David-versus-Goliath chronicle in which resolute citizens challenged powerful vested interests and deeply entrenched policies. This book also draws attention to underreported scientific breakthroughs and addresses serious health issues that affect every family in America, where popular support for medical marijuana far exceeds the number of those who actually use the herb.

The wildly successful—and widely misunderstood—medical-marijuana movement didn’t appear overnight. It was the culmination of decades of grassroots activism that began during the 1960s, when cannabis first emerged as a defining force in a culture war that has never ceased. In recent years this far-flung social movement has morphed into a dynamic, multibillion-dollar industry, becoming one of the phenomenal business stories of our generation. The marijuana story is actually many stories, all woven into one grand epic about a remarkable plant that befriended our ancestors, altered their consciousness, and forever changed the world in which we live.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 Herblore 9

Black and Blue 9

New World Hemp 15

Elixirs and Tinctures 19

High on Hash 26

Sex, Drugs, and the Occult 31

2 Prohibition 38

The Mexican Connection 38

The Mighty Mezz 43

Voodoo Pharmacology 48

A Truth Drug 54

Cold War Cannabis 60

Writing the Reality Script 65

3 Reefer Rebellion 72

Seeds of Change 72

The Riddle of THC 80

Grass and Acid 87

A Tipping Point 93

Legalize It! 97

Flower Power 103

High Spies 108

4 The Big Chill 116

This Means War 116

Dr. Mikuriya's Medicine 123

The Euphoria of Secrecy 131

Seeing Is Believing 136

Rasta Vibration 143

In Your Face 149

5 Just Say Never 157

Reefer Sadness 157

The Laughing Cure 165

Home Grown 174

Going Dutch 181

Drug-War Doublespeak 187

The Hemperor 193

6 From Blunts to Ballots 201

Bush v. Weed 201

The Brain and Marijuana 208

Hip-Hop Hemp 215

To Live and Die in San Francisco 222

The Pot Club 231

Crossing the Rubicon 238

7 Fire in the Belly 248

Counterattack 248

Unchartered Waters 254

Southern Exposure 264

Falling Dominos 270

The Stake-Out 276

Veterans for Drug-War Peace 287

8 Ground Zero 294

Narcs Gone Wild! 294

Show Trials 303

Physicians in the Crosshairs 310

The Supreme Court Punts 317

The Long Arm of the DEA 324

Ten Years After 331

9 Mellow Mayhem 339

Senior Stoners 339

An Industry Emerges 349

Healing Without the High 358

Booze or Bud? 367

The Green Rush 374

Suffer the Children 383

Postscript 393

Acknowledgments 405

Notes 407

Bibliography 475

Appendices 489

Index 495

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2014

    Well researched and written

    I found this book to be a very thorough and interesting history of marijuana in the U.S. Mr. Lee's explanation of the chemical/medical effects marijuana have on the brain were beyond my understanding for the most part but when he discusses the historical aspects he is fascinating. While maybe not an "unbiased" account I do think this an honest and sincere argument for the legalization of weed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2013

    Very Intresting

    Gives a great factual and historical account of marijuana in america. Very long and detailed. The only reason some would not like this book is because it is very good at changing opinions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2013

    Great book

    Its very informativr and was worth the money

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer


    if i were ill i would want medical marijuahana, but the stories of goverment persecution of ill people amazes me, the corpotate alcohol, tobacco and

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Supressed truths

    In depth and honest look at cannabis' history and bias's surrounding it.
    Listen and learn.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)