16 Must-Read Books for Cannabis History Lovers

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There are an estimated 5,200 books on cannabis in the English language alone. These books vary in topics, from recipes to horticulture, poems, and even legal and political history. They contain a wealth of knowledge that can give you a greater understanding of the world of cannabis, including knowledge on why it is illegal and suggestions about its healing potential. These books also provide great and fresh ideas on what to do with the plant. The following is a list of some must-read books for all lovers of the history of this plant:

1. The Emperor Wears No Clothes

Before publishing this book for the first time in 1983, the author, John Herer, took years to compile and examine data on cannabis. This thorough work done by the author has contributed to the book’s position as one of the most precise sources on what has happened in the world of cannabis to date. John Herer’s first encounter with smoking pot did not happen until he was thirty. Shortly after this experience, he left the job he had at the time as a sign maker and opened a head shop

He decided that before he turned 84, he would fight tirelessly until cannabis was made legal. He also wanted to ensure the release of everyone jailed because of it. At one point, in 1981, while imprisoned for two weeks, he started working on this book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes.

The book is one of the most famous books of all time and is like the Bible to those behind the hemp and cannabis legalization movement. It explores the uses of cannabis, the radical war behind the plant, and the racial inferences from the ban of the plant. Herer’s work has such a great impact on the world of cannabis that there is a strain named after him.

2. Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana—Medical, Recreational and Scientific

This book was written by an award-winning journalist, Martin A. Lee. It is great for anyone who is looking to understand cannabis from different viewpoints. It explores cannabis from the viewpoints of recreation, science, medicine, and the economy.

Readers can take a journey through the history of cannabis, its ban, and the movements that were set up to fight the ban. Lee gets into the laws that had been set up during the ban and their impact socially and culturally to the present day. He tells the heroic stories of those who fought draconian rules. He also talks about the hypocrisy of the systems and the authorities leading them. His work is thoroughly researched with great attention to detail. He shows not just what happened but also how and why.

3. Reefer Madness: The History of Marijuana in America

This was written by yet another award-winning journalist, Eric Schlosser. Reefer Madness is the story of how marijuana has influenced society. In the 1930s, with the influx of porn and immigrants, crazy stories spread that the Chinese and African Americans had conspired to seduce girls with marijuana. This may sound ridiculous now, but in this era of ignorance and craziness, known as the Reefer Madness period, many white Americans saw it as the truth. 

Eric Schlosser explores the effects of marijuana on the lives of Americans, whether they have ever smoked it or not. The book starts with a look at George Washington’s history as a hemp farmer and then focuses on the underground market before legalization. It looks into how big the market was, something most people never realized. With comparisons between illicit and legal transactions, he looks into how technology and government involvement have shaped the market. He talks about how big businesses learned from what was happening and made profits from it.

The Cannabis Manifesto

4. The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness

The Cannabis Manifesto outlines the inadvertent consequences of the marijuana ban. Steve DeAngelo, the author of this book, has been at the forefront of the fight for the legalization of cannabis. He is also the CEO and founder of one of the first legal dispensaries in the US. His dispensary, Harborside, is now a publicly traded organization. 

In this book, DeAngelo shares his vast knowledge of the cannabis plant and why he believes the accepted definition of recreational marijuana use is limiting. It also ignores the foundational history of the plant in conjunction with human biology. He also believes that the current definition devalues the vital benefits and profits gained from the plant. This book is thoroughly researched and answers a lot of questions about the plant. It delves into the different viewpoints of the law, science, and biology, as well as the mental and spiritual aspects of marijuana use. 

5. The Cannabis Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to Cultivation and Consumption of Medical Marijuana

Jorge Cervantes’s 596-page tome is a treasure trove of vast knowledge. Christened the marijuana Bible, this encyclopedia will help all those interested in navigating the world of marijuana. You will find topics covering slang terms, different strains, the history of marijuana, and marijuana use in medicine. 

The book describes the process of cultivation of medical marijuana in-depth. It includes detailed photos showing and describing the nutritional deficiencies and extremes in marijuana plants that you need to look out for so you can care for your plant efficiently. It considers the environment you are growing your plant in, whether indoors, outside, or in a greenhouse. Patients who use marijuana and their caregivers can also find helpful information on its effective application. 

6. Cannabis: A History

Martin Booth writes in-depth about the history of cannabis. He looks at its culture in the present as well as in the past. He helps the reader understand where cannabis came from and how it has impacted past and present culture. He outlines its role in different disciplines, including religion, art, politics, human rights, music, and medicine.

The author reveals how, at one point, the US government encouraged people to cultivate cannabis. However, it arrested and jailed many of them years later during the ban. He outlines how the need arose for cannabis smugglers and dealers. The book is ideal for anyone seeking to understand every minute detail about the history of cannabis.

The Illegalization of Weed

7. Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed

This book reveals why and how cannabis became illegal. This is a must-read for all cannabis history lovers. Box Brown seeks to help the reader understand the reason for the ban. He does this by dissecting different factors and revealing how marred by propaganda and misinformation the crackdown on drugs was. This has led to the imprisonment of many black people. Though this book has lots of drawings, these pictures only add to the depth and strength of the content the writer has written down. Box Brown ensures that as much as his book is entertaining, it is also informative and educational.

8. Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years

Written in 1980 by Earnest Abel, this book delivers on the promise of its title, beginning on the island of Taiwan, back in the stone age, where there is evidence of pots with patterns and warped fibers. This evidence suggests that there was the use of the marijuana plant in one way or another since time immemorable. 

Abel then continues the adventure by following with evidence of the plant’s first use in Africa and the Western world. He explains evidence of cannabis in urns found in German tombs and its condemnation by Pope Innocent the VIII. The plant was also used in the 1930s during the jazz era and also in witchcraft. All these go to show that the revolving acceptance and persecution of marijuana has very deep roots.

9. Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know

This book was written by Jonathan Caulkins, Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, and Mark Kleiman. It answers 150 common questions about cannabis. The book was published before 2012 when voting allowed its legalization in Washington State and Colorado. Consequently, you will find a lot of “What if” questions on topics like taxation on marijuana and special rules and regulations once legalized.

It also covers the restriction on advertising marijuana, permission to sell after legalization, and release of those imprisoned for minor possession. Other issues in the book are about the plant itself and its potency. The authors lay out the issues clearly and concisely, which is especially impressive considering the pre-legalization era in which this book was published.

10. High in America: The True Story Behind NORML and the Politics of Marijuana

Patrick Anderson tells the story of Keith Strop, the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Funded by Hugh Hefner, who is famous for his Playboy magazine, this public interest lawyer went on to fight for the legalization of marijuana for four decades.

It tells the stories of Strop hanging out on Willie Nelson’s tour bus, lobbying congressmen, enlisting President Jimmy Carter’s son (Chip Carter) to support the cause and convince his dad to do so as well, and rallying against the plan of spraying toxic pesticides on the marijuana fields in Mexico. Keith Strop went on to build one of the largest organizations in the world of marijuana.

High in America

11. It’s NORML to Smoke Pot

Written by Keith Strop himself in 2013, this book tells the story of his riotous history that turned triumphant. He narrates his fight for legalization through his organization, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and introduces you to several characters like Willie Nelson, who helped shape the author’s story. It also gives behind-the-scenes insight into how the ban shaped the political guidelines and procedures that we have today.

12. The Pot Book: A Complete Guideline to Cannabis—Its Role in Medicine, Politics, Science and Culture

Julie Holland’s book stands out from the rest. It has chapters addressing MAPS and the federal obstruction of medical marijuana research. It also addresses how the ban on marijuana could be entirely ended, among other topics. Her work is highly informative on everything that involves cannabis and explores the top ten legends and theories about it.

Julie, a physician at NYU and a member of the School of Medicine’s faculty, sought expert opinions from different disciplines. She involved peers from the medical and social sciences and history professions. These professionals came together to make a case for cannabis. Also, the book seeks to rope in skeptics by adequately looking into the risks to health and safety. All proceeds from the book go toward supporting medical research on marijuana.

13. Pots in Pans

This book is about cannabis culinary roots. It is great for lovers of edibles and explores the use of cannabis by different cultures, including how different cultures have used cannabis as an ingredient in their cooking all through history. This book also contains some fun facts and anecdotes. Robyn Griggs Lawrence has also incorporated some interesting recipes that one can try out.

14. Sacred Bliss: A Spiritual History of Cannabis

Spirituality is an often-forgotten aspect of the world of cannabis. Mark S. Ferrara explores the connection between the two throughout history, including how humans have used cannabis to connect to the spiritual aspect and enhance their consciousness.

The Hasheesh EaterThe Hasheesh Eater

15. The Hasheesh Eater

Written in 1857, this book eloquently paints a picture of the author’s experiments with Tilden’s extract, which went for six cents a measure at the local chemist at the time. Fitz Hugh Ludlow, the son of an abolitionist minister, was studying Greek and Latin classical studies in college. His curiosity led him to experiment with marijuana-induced states, where he could indulge in philosophical inquiries. Ultimately, he got hooked on the substance and had quite a struggle breaking out of his bad habits.

16. Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir

This is a great book to read, especially for ladies. It is an honest look by the author, Catherine Hiller, at how cannabis use has affected her life. She recounts its impact on different aspects, such as sex, friendship, marriage, motherhood, and work. She shows how one can still live a normal life while still using marijuana. Catherine describes her life in New York City in the 1960s and her fun experiences at Woodstock.


Understanding the world of cannabis requires one to take a journey through history. The books above will provide you with the best window into that world. Keep in mind that these are just a few of the great reads that are available. They will give you a well-versed perspective on the subject, but that’s only the beginning. 

For more information on cannabis books and to buy cannabis products, visit BuyMyWeedOnline.com.

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