Pubdate: Sun, 18 Dec 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company
Author: Matt Taibbi


On the same evening Donald Trump became the president-elect, four
states - California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada - voted to
legalize recreational marijuana, and three others voted to allow it
for medicinal purposes. It was one of the few things liberals weren't
depressed about. Should the legalization trend not be challenged by
the new Trump administration, a huge new industry surrounding the
care, consumption and enjoyment of weed will hit the cultural
mainstream. "Brave New Weed," a loving rethink of all things marijuana
by the former Details editor in chief Joe Dolce, is likely to be a
trusted hitchhiker's guide to this new universe.

Dolce takes a deep dive, explaining to the reader that he plans to
"submerge myself in this brave new - and yet at the same time, ancient
- - world." By which he basically means traveling around and smoking his
brains out, but it works. He sets his journey up as a test case, to
see if he can sample all that this booming new industry has to offer
and remain an "engaged, responsible and professional adult."

By his own account, he seems not to be the first weed researcher to
emerge from such a journey an enthusiastic apologist. One of the
funnier stories in the book (there are many of them; Dolce is a witty
writer) concerns Richard Nixon's bumbling efforts to crush the
marijuana lifestyle.

Determined to show up the "bastards" and "Jews" who want to legalize
pot, Nixon names the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania,
Raymond P. Shafer, to lead the National Commission on Marihuana and
Drug Abuse. Shafer, Nixon knows, is angling for a Supreme Court
nomination and so will surely "do his bidding," as Dolce puts it.

Shafer's commission, a humorous precursor to Dolce's own study, ends up 
spending the equivalent of $23.5 million in today's dollars to conduct 
over 50 national "studies" and visit countries like the Netherlands, 
Jamaica and Afghanistan in search of weed's evil heart. The Republican 
never finds it, producing a cheery report in 1972 called "Marihuana: A 
Signal of Misunderstanding," which concludes that the punishment for the 
crime was more harmful than the drug itself. He never got that Supreme 
Court nomination, although he may have acquired a new hobby.

Baby boomers and Gen-Xers who smoked plain old "pot" in the woods or
in the attic - the drug's illegality was part of what made it fun -
will probably have some old-fogey reactions to particular passages in
Dolce's book. The new fascination with weed in some way mirrors the
sabermetrics movement. Just as old baseball fans enjoyed the game just
fine before the advent of fWAR, there will be old stoners who say they
don't need to know the difference between an indica or a sativa to get

A bit of paper or an empty Mountain Dew can was enough to deliver the
drug to their brains, and they managed without instructions on how to
enjoy themselves. Which means Dolce's unironic enthusiasm about
accessories ("The beauty of a precision vaporizer like the Plenty is
that the temperature can be adjusted") or activities to avoid
("Tennis, at which I'm less accomplished, is overwhelming") may seem

Dolce, to his credit, addresses the one truly dark undercurrent of
this new movement - that white yuppie grown-up users are getting a
place in the mainstream while inner-city black kids caught dealing or
even possessing the drug are still going to jail (getting "a ticket to
orange," as Dolce puts it).

Ending this madness is theoretically a chief benefit of new
legalization laws, along with America's catching up to research into
medicinal effects (Dolce's account of Israel's 20,000-person cannabis
study is fascinating). The rest of it - arduously crafted new strains
on a spectrum as vast as wine vintages, "designer" highs, a fuller
appreciation of how pot enhances creativity and the senses - is a
matter of taste.

Young people everywhere have always known that pot doesn't cause brain
bubbles or werewolfism, that its illegality was stupid and
hypocritical, and most of all that it's fun. The next generation will
just be the first who can openly write books and reviews about that
fun. While some may mourn the goofball-outlaw era of pot that gave us
"Up in Smoke," Dr. Greenthumb and some pretty cloudy parking lots
outside Phish concerts, the era of Dolce's "Brave New Weed" will
probably be a better time.

Matt Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone and the author of "The
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MAP posted-by: Matt