"I'm the tour guide for a global gourmet-ganja holiday." So writes Brian Preston, a Canadian journalist, with just a hint of gloating, in Pot Planet, a gimlet-eyed and often hilarious account of the author's round-the-world reefer safari. With Britain's downscaling of penalties for marijuana possession currently stirring up controversy, Preston's book comes along at a propitious moment. And while Preston admits to recreational use and appears to condone efforts to legalize the drug he offers a surprisingly clear-headed view of potheads worldwide. Researching marijuana mores in twelve countries, from Canada to Cambodia, Preston rubbed shoulders -- and puffed on joints -- with devotees who fry their morning pancakes in hemp oil, discuss the subtle differences between Sweet Skunk and Bubbleberry as if they were comparing fine wines, have their last names legally changed to Cannabis, and, in the case of one enterprising Australian, dream of opening the Big Bong Burger Bar, a kind of edible-marijuana McDonald's.
In Loaded, Robert Sabbag, a reporter for Rolling Stone, offers a somewhat darker view of the herb. This true-life tall tale about Allen Long, a frustrated American documentary filmmaker who began smuggling pot out of Mexico and then Colombia in the seventies, is like a cannabis version of the film "Blow," featuring countless near-death episodes in a rickety, marijuana-stuffed DC-3. Whereas Preston eventually concludes that marijuana is just "one of those goofy adult things like booze and sex," Sabbag's more critical examination of how the stuff actually finds its way into the United States reveals a major "triumph of greed over good judgment."(Mark Rozzo)
For this adventurous travelogue, freelance journalist Preston (a contributor to Rolling Stone, Details and Vogue) literally smoked his way around the world, investigating marijuana culture in the U.S. and Europe as well as in places as far away as Nepal, Morocco, Australia and Southeast Asia. Although the idea of a journalist smoking himself across the globe might sound like the kind of lightweight assignment dreamed up at a High Times office party, the book, based mostly on Preston's extensive travels, is a marvelously entertaining, well-written and probing look at the world through marijuana, from the plant itself to the subculture of peoples who smoke it (an estimated 200 million worldwide), grow it, sell it and outlaw it. Throughout, Preston proves himself to be both an intrepid traveler and a fine storyteller. He effortlessly weaves tales humorous and harrowing, vividly rendering his environs and introducing readers to an array of fascinating characters, from growers in Vancouver to activists in London and a variety of guides and acquaintances in exotic locales. A copious researcher, he is equally at ease detailing plant science or the evolution of Amsterdam's drug policies. To his credit, Preston avoids introducing any sort of legalization polemic until a final, brief chapter, which is an unfortunate addition. His musings at the book's end only interfere with any conclusions readers themselves might be expected to draw. Still, for those who share an affinity with Preston's subject, this excellent book will be devoured like a tray of brownies. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In the late 1990s, freelance journalist Preston wrote an article for Rolling Stone on marijuana culture in Vancouver, where he was living. Inspired by the experience, he traveled to 11 countries, from Nepal to the United States, to investigate marijuana availability, quality, and devotees. Along the way, he smoked, ate, and drank a great deal of pot. Among the most fascinating aspects of his book, which is a mix of travelog, cultural history, and screed, are his investigations of the arcana of marijuana culture, especially the science of growing the plant and the different varieties of seeds available. Preston is clearly a proponent of legalization and sees the United States as a veritable dinosaur in this area. His book is a very entertaining read, informally written. Recommended for most libraries. A.O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
An enlightening survey of 21st-century cannabis consumers, at an estimated 200 million strong. British Columbia-based journalist Preston explains that although he was a "moderate toker" by local standards, his Rolling Stone editor perceived him as a "stoner dude," and assigned him a story on the Canadian marijuana scene, which led to this study: "Pot lovers, psychologically landlocked by the War on Drugs, need to be reminded there's a big ol' world out there where the DEA doesn't hold sway." Preston modulates his pothead's holiday with an alluring multinational slant-he narrates a journey through 12 countries (including Switzerland, Spain, Australia, Laos, Thailand, and the US), bookended by a local growers' competition in Canada, and the infamous High Times "Cannabis Cup" in Amsterdam. Although Preston consumes much marijuana, hashish, kif, and sundry teas and baked goods during his travels, his observations stay thankfully sharp and lucid. Generally speaking, Preston discerns a subtle international watershed: while law enforcement in poorer countries like Nepal and Morocco ignore native cannabis consumers and tolerate (or exploit) the cash influx of so-called "drug tourists," European nations (save France, Germany, and Sweden) are attempting to permit discreet particular cannabis possession without welcoming those same drug tourists. His jaunts through specific countries are always engaging, revealing the semi-organized underground communities necessitated by the herb's illegal status. Back home in Vancouver, for example, a network of growers and seed/equipment suppliers pursue strains like "Bubbleberry" and "Pearly Girl" with gourmet zeal. In England, Preston follows the nascent"hempster" movement's engagement with governmental agencies, a traditional gambit of European social activists. Elsewhere, localized irony abounds: in Muslim communities, liquor consumption is scorned over communal hash-smoking, while Holland's tolerance of soft drugs incongruously results from that nation's stolid conservatism. Beyond the endearing stoned camaraderie of Preston's travelogue, he condemns pot prohibition with sound reasoning (e.g., that it encourages a criminalized black market) in case any social conservatives are reading, while his fellow travelers will enjoy knowing, for instance, how not to get hustled in Tangier. But the author also confirms there's no alternative to getting hustled in America, courtesy of the taxpayer-financed, cannabis-focused atrocity of the drug war. A blend of advocacy and (so to speak) sober reportage on an issue that's only superficially whimsical.