Reefer Sanity
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Reefer Sanity
Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Uncharted World of Cannabis Joe Dolce Harper Wave www.harperwave.com 275 Pages; Print, $25.00

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In Brave New Weed, Joe Dolce envisions what the world of marijuana consumption will look like once other states and countries follow the lead of California, Oregon, Colorado, the Netherlands and Israel—yes, Israel!—and marijuana becomes available ubiquitously for smoking, vaping, chewing and tasting in myriad medicinal and recreational varieties. In this new age, consumers will be able to select from dozens upon dozens of varieties, knowing exactly what kind of high each will produce and/or what medical and health benefits each will provide.

Dolce, a former editor-in-chief of Details and Star magazines who has also written for the New York Times, Gourmet and other periodicals, takes readers on an exhilarating, if bizarre world tour of companies, communities and individuals on the cutting, and sometimes bleeding, edge of marijuana research, cultivation, processing and marketing.

We stop in Israel, where smoking pot isn't legal, but where much of the research into the medicinal properties of the devil weed is now taking place. Israel has some 20,000 people participating in the largest state-run medical marijuana program in the world. Israeli researchers are investigating marijuana as a treatment for depression, loss of appetite, pain, post-traumatic stress and sedation. Dolce speaks at length with Israeli scientists investigating the body's endocannabinoid system, which comprises the network of receptors in the brain and nervous system involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood and memory and may be related to the evolution of the runner's high.

Another stop on Dolce's long, strange trip is Denver, to learn how recreational marijuana is being marketed like wine, as experts evaluate the color, smell, taste and effects of sundry varieties of smoke. In Los Angeles, he talks to a researcher who is working on how different dosages affect the high and how THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, terpenoids, flavinoids and the other components of marijuana act and interact. In Amsterdam, he attends the 25th Cannabis Cup, the oldest festival dedicated to sampling and honoring the best strains of marijuana and hashish grown each year. He speaks with medical researchers, marijuana marketers and brand specialists, "budmasters" and a number of very wealthy business people who have thrown their financial support behind legalization, including long-time users like Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis and Men's Wearhouse founder George Zimmer.

Interspersed through Dolce's reporting is a fairly good popular history of marijuana use since ancient times. The American part of the story is disappointing and alarming, because it reflects both our inherent racism and anti-science bias. Dolce cites a study that shows that the primary reason many states passed legislation criminalizing pot use during the prohibition era (roughly 1913-1930) had very little to do with rampant drug abuse and everything to do with an anti-immigration furor. When the Great Depression suppressed tax revenues and threatened his department, an ambitious bureaucrat named Harry Anslinger, with financial backing from alcohol beverage companies, created a new anti-Mexican marijuana scare campaign that led to the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act, which essentially ended the practice of some doctors prescribing marijuana tinctures for various ailments. After a loosening of social mores regarding marijuana in the 1960's, Nixon started his war on drugs.

Along the way, our various levels of government ignored the research suggesting that pot was relatively harmless and would approve only research which had the purpose of demonstrating its dangers. Thus, from the 1970's on, those few American medical researchers allowed to investigate the devil weed accumulated studies showing the damage it did not do, but very little showing how it could help manage pain, relieve anxiety, make soldiers forget traumatic experiences and perhaps even ward off certain cancers. In short, our government took the same anti-science approach that Congress took when it banned all research into gun violence and many elected officials and lobbyists take by denying human-induced climate change and the theory of evolution...