Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, goes the cliché. When it comes to weed, make that "most of the time." From the life of country music legend Willie Nelson to the thriving underground world of pot cultivation to the ins and outs of legalization to Mexico's history in the war on drugs, the facts surrounding cannabis and its role in culture are much weirder than the lies. Below, Legalization Nation picks a handful of the best nonfiction books of 2012.
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
By Willie Nelson
Nelson — the poet philosopher, outlaw country music legend, and infamous stoner — lassoes together recollections of his childhood, tour diary entries, and musings on family, music, and marijuana in this breezy, new 165-page hardcover. Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die is currently number six on The New York Times' national hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list. Part of the book's popularity is undoubtedly due to Nelson's enormous fan base, but Roll Me Up also delivers some gems. You get a sense of Nelson's deeply rural, hardscrabble roots, like when he recalls fighting bumblebees in the fields with his friends at age ten. "We made paddles out of wooden boxes that looked like Ping-Pong paddles with holes. One of us would go in and stir up the bees. Then, when the bees were swarming, everyone would start swinging. The bees always headed for your eyes."
You don't have to be into pot or country music to enjoy Nelson's jokes and insight. "He's got some real wisdom," said country singer and former Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, who wrote the foreword. "He's like a God in Texas."
"Something about what he is doing is working," Friedman told Legalization Nation. "He is really, honestly connecting with people in a way different than most artists or entertainers. Everybody thinks that they're Willie's friend, and that's true."
Cannabis Indica: The Essential Guide to the World's Finest Marijuana Strains, Vol. 2
Edited by S.T. Oner
The development of marijuana strains is a billion-dollar, globalized industry with centers in the United States, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Britain, Spain, Russia, and even South Africa. Top seed companies ship to nearly everywhere on the globe, but they take no responsibility for package loss or interception. Even with the vagaries of the black market, online reputation systems help weed out good actors from bad, and both illicit and medical cannabis growers rely heavily on seasonal seed innovation, just like mainstream farmers.
Fresh on the scene, Green Candy Press of San Francisco has been churning out big, thick, glossy, full-color paperbacks of informative nug porn this year — perfect for patients, growers, and weedheads. Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica volumes 1 and 2 are edited by one S.T. Oner, who — goofy pseudonym aside — seems to be in close contact with the world's top marijuana seed companies.
Like prior volumes, Indica Vol. 2 is a massive compendium of weed strains. In the book's forward, Mel Thomas, an author and grower, explains the origins of cannabis indica in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan, where the plants adapted to the quick, punishing summer by growing short, bushy, fast, and darkly colored. "Indica is the buddy that I can kick back with at the end of a long and stressful day," Oner adds in the preface. For others, indica is a life-saver: "Indica is their pain relief," Oner writes. "It brings the hunger that chemotherapy has robbed of them."
The 208-page tome contains 100 strain profiles. Each gets its own full-page photo with an opposing page of information on the strain's seed company, potency, genetics, look, growth pattern, and effect.
Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup
By Mark Haskell Smith
Smith, an author of four books who is also a professor of writing in Los Angeles, has had one hell of a year. The fictional strain "Elephant Crush" from his 2010 weed crime novel Baked escaped into reality and has become a regular at San Francisco dispensary Waterfall Wellness. Smith ran for a seat on the Eagle Rock neighborhood council as part of efforts to maintain access to medical marijuana in the battleground of Los Angeles. And he released Heart of Dankness, a nonfiction odyssey into the world of pot breeding, buying, selling, and culture.
This 233-page paperback might have served as research for Baked. It dives deeply into cannabis cultivation by visiting cartel grow sites in the Sierra Nevada, The Gray Area at Amsterdam's Cannabis Cup, and the spaces in between. Smith proves to be an affable and capable guide, mixing cutting-edge genetic research with goofy, bud-smoking chicanery.
Other Picks of 2012
Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know by Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawkins, Beau Kilmer, and Mark A.R. Kleiman; Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico's War on Drugs by Isaac Campos; and The Official High Times Cookbook, by the editors of High Times magazine.