Smoke stacks:

A stoney summer reading list

When I was a wee one, my mother would call my school and get an advanced copy of the upcoming semester reading list. An avid reader herself, she would then add her own choice titles to the list, which I would be tasked with devouring by the end of the summer holiday. Whether it was a byproduct of this literary form of Stockholm syndrome or a genuine love of habitual reading, I now keep a working “to-read” list at all times.

So naturally when I started writing about cannabis, my first stop was the stacks. Some titles were sent by publicists or authors, others I stumbled on in bookstores. But considering we’re stuck inside for the better part of who-knows-how-long, I thought now would be a good time as any to revisit a few of my personal favourites.

The wonderful thing about a bookworm’s existence is there’s no prerequisite for socialization, or even to breach the outside world. One must only crack a binding to talk to new people or explore places far beyond their couch. If anything, reading can be a bit of reprieve in these confined times. Whether you're new to cannabis and would like to build on your foundational knowledge, or you’re looking for a deeper academic exploration, this summer reading list should have something for every stoner.

Consumption and application

You’re brand new to consuming cannabis or working in the industry, or just curious about the plant’s varied applications, The Leafly Guide to Cannabis (2017) is a good place to start. It addresses consumption tools, common cultivars, basic plant taxonomy, myths, history, and a few basic recipes for home infusions. It’s subtitled “a handbook for the modern consumer”, and it’s exactly what it purports to be. While it claims applicability to “expert or novice, medical or recreation”, I would argue this guide is more tailored to a novice recreational consumer. As it was published pre-legalization, there are updates needed to its section on dispensaries and the details around the legality of certain products. But if you’re looking for a better understanding of industry vernacular, how to properly pack and clean your pipe, or experiment with other weed products, this book is a solid primer.

To loudly toot Inside the Jar’s own horn, Amanda Siebert’s debut book, The Little Book of Cannabis (2018), is the next step in exploring the plant’s potential contributions to your life. From improving sleep to “steamier sex”, it unpacks the latest research around the plant, debunks some common myths, and offers practical consumption advice. Each chapter opens with a compelling case study from an individual whose life has been improved by cannabis and follows with a digestible approach to understanding the current scientific and anecdotal evidence to support their testimony.

Keeping in the strain of applications, Dee Dessault’s Ganja Yoga (2017) is a complete guide to blending cannabis into yogic practices. I go back to this book whenever I am feeling heightened anxiety or mentally drained and need a little inspiration to slow down. The whole read is like a cup of green tea and a deep stretch for your soul. Considering we all have a little more time on our hands right now, it’s an opportunity to explore hobbies that can be achieved in the living room. A certified yoga teacher, Dessault walks readers through mindful consumption, intention setting, stoned meditation, low intensity stretches, and breathing exercises. It even includes a particularly compelling section on yogic buying practices. But beyond hands-on tips, it also contextualizes the history of plant medicines in the practice.

History

One of the most comprehensive and rich texts I’ve come across in my study of cannabis was gifted to me by Vancouver author, historian, and advocate Chris Bennett. Liber 420 (2018) is an incredibly detailed academic exploration of the role of cannabis in medieval magic, the occult, and renaissance alchemy. It’s more than 700 pages chalked with primary resources, like religious manuscripts, masonic journals, poetry, and archaeological texts, all referencing historic applications of weed throughout human history. Be prepared for a long read—I’ve had this book for over two years and find myself still working through sections. From an ingredient in life-preserving tinctures to it’s distorting and hallucinogenic contributions to magical illusions, this book provides an important and stark contrast to the modern attitudes surrounding a powerful plant.

Romancing Mary Jane (1998) is one of my all-time favourites. The true story follows a year in the life of Michael Poole, a Canadian journalist, producer, and filmmaker, as he attempts to become a full-time cultivator on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. Despite his failure (not a spoiler), bumbles, and unfortunate run-ins with the criminal underbelly of pre-legalization production, the story is undeniably charming, funny, and endearing. It’s a relatively quick read, as Poole’s writing is compelling and butter smooth, and it shines a light on the difficulty of tending to a temperamental plant in a temperate rainforest. Though I didn’t think it was possible, it made me love B.C. Bud a little more.

For years, Vancouver cannabis activist David Malmo-Levine and artist Bob High produced hand drawn comics depicting some of the pivotal moments in Canada’s legalization movement. In 2018, 420 of their colourful, packed pages were compiled into the Vansterdam Comix. From protest posters to funny pages, they immortalized a history all too often forgotten in current industry discourse. The book is a tribute to the community that brought about change in this country and provides detailed insight into some less discussed areas of the global drug war. Though it’s a comic book, it’s a detailed account of a glossed-over proletariat victory in Canadian history.

Fun

Though it’s not about cannabis, I couldn’t leave out Timothy Leary’s High Priest (1968). It details various drug trips, from Leary’s first foray into psilocybin in Mexico to heavy doses of psychedelics taken by some of the most prolific and profound figures of the 1960s, including Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Aldous Huxley, and Ram Dass. Each chapter follows a guide and tripper(s) as they explore consciousness-expanding drugs through a psychological and spiritual lens. It was written before the American clinical psychologist’s arrest—on drug charges, of course—and has since played an influential role in psychedelic advocacy and research. It’s also just a really fun, challenging, and weird read, providing a window into the bizarre expansion of some already very interesting minds.