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Bookmonger: ‘Weed the People’ offers cannabis conversation

Weed the People – Bruce Barcott

Time Books – 326 pp - $27.95

When my husband and I sit down at the dining room table to fill out our ballots, we are generally of like minds. But in November, 2012, we parted ways on Initiative 502.

According to a new book called “Weed the People,” I was a member of the holdout demographic – middle-aged women – that was least receptive to the idea of legalizing marijuana. My husband, along with 56 percent of the voters in Washington State, felt differently.

Now Bainbridge Island author Bruce Barcott uses that historic vote to investigate our nation’s attitude toward cannabis in the past, and how things look to be changing. In “Weed the People,” he takes us through the transformative ramifications – legally, ethically, medically, and commercially – for both Washington and Colorado, as these two states pioneer new business models, new products, new regulations, and more, while the rest of the nation watches closely.

In the first few chapters, Barcott sometimes comes across as too eager to please. Slinging around phrases like “’roided out” and “bro, ” he’s the nerd who is desperate to fit in. But after a while he settles into his role as the affable, somewhat rumpled, mainstream guy who is serving witness to what is happening as this revolution takes place.

Barcott takes us along as he goes into boardrooms and warehouses to meet with investors, botanists, growers, and retailers – all striving to participate on this new frontier.

He takes us to the first day of legal pot sales in Colorado, which is covered by “a writhing cockroachery of reporters,” and to the “weedly fellowship” of the Cannabis Cup, an international pot convention, in Denver.

And he takes us to the drama in his own community as the city council grapples with how to deal with marijuana growing, processing and retail within its own small sphere.

When Barcott describes his flustered attempts to overcome his own “internal rules of probity” and make his own marijuana purchases, the budtender’s scrupulous explanation concerning serving size and possible effects of the marijuana edible “flew over my head like so much Charlie Brown teacher talk.”

This knack for descriptive acuity extends to Barcott’s account of the psychotropic effects of pot on his own brain. It’s hilarious and (to this reader, at least) alarming.

But if we think all this is chaotic – the author goes to Louisiana to show us the truly despicable havoc that unenlightened drug laws are continuing to wreak. Make no mistake – the old drug laws were not the good old days.

Still, Barcott shows that there are legitimate reasons for caution. Especially in terms of young brains, and also in terms of some medical illness, marijuana cannot be considered a benign substance. The chapter titled “The Schizophrenia Question” gives frightening and excellent arguments against the use of marijuana up to the age of 25.

“Weed the People” did not change my own set of convictions, but it did provide an engaging look at the flux we are undergoing today. We live in interesting times.

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com.

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