Mark Jr.'s Reviews > Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific

Smoke Signals by Martin A. Lee
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it was ok
bookshelves: audio, 2016

Indefatigable. Argument by avalanche. That's the method here. Story after anecdote after study after reason why cannabis should not only be legalized but recognized for the panacea that it is.

But Martin Lee's journalistic prose style doesn't sound like something coming from a crackpot (or a pothead). If there isn't much life, or any humor whatsoever, in his dogged prose, there is skill and there is clarity.

What isn't clear, what never really seems to get addressed, is why, in the face of "ample evidence," the Feds and narcs and presidents and attorneys general who are Lee's nemeses in this book would go to such great lengths to keep people from this wonder drug. As I listened to the book (nearly 22 hours, though I listened at 2.5x speed), my jaw dropped further and further as Lee persistently refused to show any real curiosity as to why so many smart, successful people would so utterly oppose and persecute marijuana smoking. He says they believe it's a gateway drug. He says the early opponents thought it led to criminal behavior. He says that “big pharma,” tobacco, and alcohol companies have financial reasons to oppose the rise of a competitor. But he doesn't probe. He doesn't really listen to the other side. He doesn't seem to believe that the Feds really believe their own reasons, but he doesn't seem to want to explore what their real reasons are.

It could have been just me, but it seemed that as the book progressed Lee became even more dismissive of his enemies and less journalistic. He said of one expert witness called by the government, "She obviously knew zilch about the endo-cannabanoid system." (I paused to take that one down verbatim.) In the final words of the book he called his opponents "venal and dishonest." Even Barack Obama, despite campaign promises to the contrary, has come down hard on marijuana.

Frankly, I don't (yet) know what the opponents of marijuana legalization are saying right now. I'm just getting into the debate. But methinks Lee doth protest too much. When a writer can't see any validity at all in the utterly brain dead opinions of his malicious and demonic enemies; and when he piles on the amazing cancer-fighting, brain-cell creating, mood-assisting benefits of the magical marijuana plant—I'm suspicious. Good and evil rarely line up neatly along us and them lines, and cost-benefit analyses are usually simpler in this fallen world than 100% benefit, 0% cost.

I'm open to the idea that the active ingredients in marijuana could be viewed as medicines, particularly if they don't cause the self-control-marring "buzz" which seems to be the Bible's real concern with regard to the analogous issue of alcohol. If THC truly is an analgesic with minimal side effects and no tendency to cause dependence, who am I to condemn what other people receive with thanksgiving? Who doesn't want a wonder drug?

But I'm not convinced. The jury is still out. Way out. Far out, man.
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Reading Progress

June 15, 2016 – Started Reading
June 15, 2016 – Shelved
June 15, 2016 – Shelved as: audio
June 15, 2016 –
page 400
75.76% "Indefatigable. Argument by avalanche."
June 23, 2016 – Finished Reading
June 25, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Johann Hari's book "Chasing the Scream" may be a good follow up. He doesn't tackle MJ specifically, but rather drugs in general. He traces the history of the drug war and shows the effects of it from a village-to-global standpoint.


Mark Jr. Thanks, Jeff. That's real helpful. I think I have an open mind; I kept hoping that Lee would honor that open mind, and I don't think he did.


message 3: by Waldo (new) - added it

Waldo Jones If you guys don't like this book,
read "The Emporer Wears no Clothes" by Jack Herer.
(12th edition or newer)


message 4: by Marian (new) - added it

Marian Your review lacks substance. You just want to discredit him because he is passionate? Oh no he called someone dishonest? So what?

I feel you are ignorant about what marijuana does if you call it "self-control-marring". I mean your credulity that some one would act irrationally are cruelly on a massive societal scale is laughable. Have you not learned about the witch hunts? The inquisition? Examples that are far more extreme but prove that people will go to any disgusting lengths to impose their false ideas.

Also you mention the Bible as if it need be considered. Which makes me doubt your world view is anything near reality.


message 5: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe What? This makes zero sense, and I have no idea how you could come to that conclusion if you've actually read the book.

Lee cites over and over again instances of law enforcement professionals and others with substantial stake in keeping marijuana illegal admitting that the science does not support their conclusions. I don't know how much more you want-- these are the same people responsible for its prohibition. Or did the 40+ pages of citations not do it for you either? Ridiculous.


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