Three stars, read in February 2018.
I don’t know what was more surprising, Henry Ford’s marijuana car (made from cellulose bioplastics, including hemp, that were stronger and lighter than steel; he was also going to use it in fuel); the fact that up to 30 percent of the earth’s population might be allergic to it; or the variety of famous people who’ve spoken publicly about their use and/or advocacy (not just Willie Nelson and Seth Rogen but Rick Steves, Carl Sagan, Lee Child, Louis Armstrong, Alexandre Dumas, William Butler Yeats).
The rabid anti-drug propaganda of the pre-internet twentieth century is so embarrassing in retrospect, and would be hysterically funny if it wasn’t still doing nationwide large-scale damage. I agree with Sam Harris on this subject:
The “war on drugs” has been lost, and should never have been waged. I can think of no right more fundamental than the right to peacefully steward the contents of one’s own consciousness. The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of non-violent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time.
And this, which I read in a fascinating report in Harper’s Magazine a few months ago, about the American war on drugs:
As long ago as 1949, H. L. Mencken identified in Americans “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy,” an astute articulation of our weirdly Puritan need to criminalize people’s inclination to adjust how they feel. The desire for altered states of consciousness creates a market, and in suppressing that market we have created a class of genuine bad guys—pushers, gangbangers, smugglers, killers. Addiction is a hideous condition, but it’s rare. Most of what we hate and fear about drugs—the violence, the overdoses, the criminality—derives from prohibition, not drugs.
(This book is informational, light-hearted, and whimsical, easily read in under an hour; all doom and gloom is my own.)