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The Pot Book

A Complete Guide to Cannabis

Edited by Julie Holland
Published by Park Street Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

Leading experts on the science, history, politics, medicine, and potential of America’s most popular recreational drug

• With contributions by Andrew Weil, Michael Pollan, Lester Grinspoon, Allen St. Pierre (NORML), Tommy Chong, and others

• Covers marijuana’s physiological and psychological effects, its medicinal uses, the complex politics of cannabis law, pot and parenting, its role in creativity, business, and spirituality, and much more

Exploring the role of cannabis in medicine, politics, history, and society, The Pot Book offers a compendium of the most up-to-date information and scientific research on marijuana from leading experts, including Lester Grinspoon, M.D., Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Allen St. Pierre (NORML), and Raphael Mechoulam. Also included are interviews with Michael Pollan, Andrew Weil, M.D., and Tommy Chong as well as a pot dealer and a farmer who grows for the U.S. Government.

Encompassing the broad spectrum of marijuana knowledge from stoner customs to scientific research, this book investigates the top ten myths of marijuana; its physiological and psychological effects; its risks; why joints are better than water pipes and other harm-reduction tips for users; how humanity and cannabis have co-evolved for millennia; the brain’s cannabis-based neurochemistry; the complex politics of cannabis law; its potential medicinal uses for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses; its role in creativity, business, and spirituality; and the complicated world of pot and parenting. As legalization becomes a reality, this book candidly offers necessary facts and authoritative opinions in a society full of marijuana myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes.


Chapter 32
Co-Evolution with Cannabis

An Interview with Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan is the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, winner of the James Beard Award, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006), which was named one of the ten best books of the year by both the New York Times and the Washington Post. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, Pollan is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including the James Beard Award for best magazine series in 2003 and the Reuters-I.U.C.N. 2000 Global Award for Environmental Journalism. Newsweek named Pollan one of the top-ten new thought leaders of the decade.

Julie Holland: The idea that we co-evolved with cannabis for 10,000 years is fascinating. You’ve written about cannabis helping you forget, as sort of a helpful strategy or adaptation, and there’s a line in Botany of Desire about forgetting as a prerequisite to human happiness and mental health.

Michael Pollan: We understand the evolutionary utility of memory, but we don’t often think about the utility of forgetting. It’s almost as important to be able to forget as it is to remember. Forgetting, in this case, is not just a fading of a memory, but an active process for editing, because we take in far more information than it would be useful to retain. There’s just so much detail in our visual field (not to mention the other senses) at any given moment that a lot of what our brain is doing is separating out and figuring out what is worth remembering, what can be shucked, and what should just be remembered for a little while and then let go of.

JH: There’s no doubt that short-term, working memory is temporarily diminished when somebody gets high. But what I think is enjoyable to people is this idea of dehabituation, that they’re seeing things with a fresh eye. Memory is the enemy of wonder. When people get high, everything is new and intense because of this forgetting, because it’s dehabituated.

MP: It’s a childlike way of looking at the world; Wordsworth’s child. He sees everything for the first time, and of course, to see things for the first time you have to have forgotten that you’ve seen them before. So forgetting is very important to the experience of awe or wonder.

JH: That sort of perception provides breaks in your mental habits, the power to alter mental constructs and offers new ways of looking at things, so drugs can then function as, you use the phrase, “cultural mutagens.”

: What I’m speaking of there is, looking at the whole history of drugs and culture, whether you’re talking about music, or art, or writing, there’s this very rich tradition of artists who have availed themselves of various drugs and have attributed great insight or creativity to their experience with those drugs. And one of the mechanisms that might explain this is that it’s shifting of ordinary perception, allowing you to see things from a new perspective and that is kind of mutagenic.

JH: Yes, I agree. Interesting . . . I feel like our culture is so separated from nature now, that it’s a big part of our problem. People everywhere seem to be reaching out, wanting more--more meaning and searching for spirituality, though half the time we settle for materialism or consumerism. What do you think that we can do to reconnect more with nature? Do you see plant-based medicines having an effect on that?

MP: I think they do. We have this inbred idea of nature and culture and mind and body standing on opposite sides of the big divide. One of the things that’s really striking to me about all plant mood-changing substances is that they refute this idea. If things out in the natural world could change the content of your thoughts, what would it mean that you have viewed matter on one hand and this thing called spirit on the other? It really suggests that the categories are messier and more intertwined than we’d like to think. There’s a whole tradition in the West of suppressing plant-based drugs of one kind or another, and also plant-based knowledge. That’s what the story of the Garden of Eden is all about. It’s not the content of the knowledge that Eve got in the garden; it was the fact that she got any knowledge from a plant. What was a big part of earlier religions, which often had a drug component to them, was that there was wisdom in nature, and that was the way it came to you. That was a very threatening idea to monotheism, which wanted to have this one God up in the sky, and wanted to take our eyes off nature as a place where we might find wisdom and comfort. The whole Judeo-Christian tradition has a history of a strong anti-nature component to it. Nature is to be subdued, nature is what we are different from: we distinguish ourselves from animals. It’s always about inserting that distance between us and the other animals, us and the trees, because people were worshipping trees before. So, to the extent that you wanted to erect this new kind of God, you had to reject nature and natural experiences of all different kinds. So I do think there is the potential to return to this appreciation of the fact that our consciousnesses can be affected by the plant world, not to mention the fungal world.

JH: I love the idea of a garden being a place of sacraments. In Botany of Desire you wrote, “Letting nature have her way with us now and again brings our upward gaze back down to earth.” This idea of nature as teacher and as healer . . . a plant as medicine is so basic to our culture, but we’ve gotten away from that to a large extent.

: Indeed. And it’s been our great loss.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Park Street Press (September 23, 2010)
  • Length: 576 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781594778988

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Raves and Reviews

“With marijuana legislation making headlines almost daily, The Pot Book’s timing is impeccable. It takes a candid look at all things cannabis from all angles: history, scientific research, medicinal use, our nation’s drug policy, myths, and misconceptions. I recommend this book as a comprehensive must-have guide for any library.”

– Andrew Weil, M.D., author of the bestselling 8 Weeks to Optimum Health and founder of the Arizona Ce

The Pot Book traces the secret history of marijuana, examines the disconnect between seventy years of prohibition and the American public’s personal attitudes toward pot, and offers a clear-eyed look at all the uses of cannabis, including the growing list of its widespread medicinal benefits. Consulting with the top experts in the field, Dr. Julie Holland presents the current science and makes a compelling case for the need for further research, unencumbered by anti-drug hysteria, as well as an immediate change to our nation’s puritanical drug laws.”

– John Dioso, deputy managing editor of Rolling Stone

“The most-up-to-date and reliable source of information on the exploding frontiers of cannabis science written by the top experts in the field. I highly recommend this book.”

– Steven Hager, High Times creative director

“Dr. Julie Holland has assembled a virtual dream team of cannabis experts for this marijuana magnum opus.”

– Steve Bloom, publisher of, coauthor of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness, and for

“Dr. Holland’s brilliant compendium of marijuana facts and cultural insights from the best medical minds and scientific researchers, while acknowledging the potential for abuse, makes a compelling case for cannabis as the most ancient, benign, and uplifting inebriant/sacrament/medicine humanity has ever known. Just say Know.”

– Alex and Allyson Grey, artists and cofounders of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM)

The Pot Book reveals the truth about cannabis in one timely, evenhanded volume. Dr. Julie Holland has brought together the top experts discussing every aspect of this persistently misunderstood plant. The Pot Book is now the best single source for information and insights on marijuana.”

– Neal M. Goldsmith, Ph.D., author of Psychedelic Healing

“Are you a lover or hater of the pot world? In either case this book is for you, if you want to be enlightened. I knew the book was a winner as soon as I held it and felt the good vibrations. Read it and tell your friends.”

– Tommy Chong, comedian, actor, and cannabis activist

"With controversy heating up, and propositions to legalize marijuana appearing all over the nation, a book which educates, dispels myths, and elucidates the issues associated with this plant could not be more timely. . . Organized in five section, the book offers important facts and expert opinions regarding marijuana's physiological, neurochemical, and psychological effects; its potential for medicinal uses; and its role in creativity, business, and spirituality . . . Throughout the book, research-based material is enhanced by interviews and stories, and the contributors' accounts of their personal experiences add a flavor of authenticity. The Pot Book will appeal to a wide audience, and serves as a thorough reference for educators, clinicians, and families, as well as a training consultation manual. This volume makes an excellent transducer to help transform the failing war on marijuana into something more positive and enriching."

– Richard Skaff, Foreword Magainze, October 2010

"As cannabis legalization and decriminalization approaches its tipping point in the US, it's refreshing that Dr. Julie Holland has published, The Pot Book, the most comprehensive overview available of cannabis, its medical uses and societal ramifications. What makes The Pot Book truly significant is the depth of its coverage and the breath of its fifty contributors."

– Michael Backes, Dangerous Minds, October 2010

"The Pot Book is encyclopedic in breath, and provocative and engaging enough to stand out as both a reference and entertainment source. Something for everyone, and everything for those willing to dig deep."

– Mac Graham, Whole Life Times, October 2010

"I found The Pot Book extremely educational with many aha's. . . I commend Holland for putting together this extremely important book."

– Irene Watson, Reader Views, October 2010

"The Pot Book is perhaps the most exhaustive compendium to date regarding marijuana and the science, politics, and culture surrounding it. Everyone needs to know the facts about cannabis, and just about everything one needs to know can be found within these pages."

– Mason Tvert,, September 2010

" essential new compendium of sensible thinking about marijuana..."

– Arthur Magazine, November 2010

“Truly, The Pot Book is a testament to how much information is available about pot today. Even for someone like myself, who sometimes might be deluded into thinking there is nothing more to learn about weed, I was sometimes surprised by a fresh nugget of wisdom, a previously unknown factoid or a new perspective. Overall, I give The Pot book a big thumbs up, for being incredibly comprehensive and easy to read at the same time.”

– Reverend Damuzi, Cannabis Culture Magazine, December 2010

“The latest scientific and social research comes from experts who debunk popular myths and offer a survey embracing the latest who debunk popular myths and offer a survey embracing the latest research across disciplines: perfect for general or college-level holdings.”

– The Midwest Book Review, December 2010

“Candid, timely and comprehensive, The Pot Book offers the necessary facts and authoritative opinions and is endorsed out the wazoo.”

– Sir Read A Lot Reviews, December 2010

“The nuance of the human-cannabis relationship, so subtle, is reflected in the political landscape; full of contradictions, half-laws and half truths. . . The Pot Book is an exposition of this complexity and as a collection it manages to shine through the mess and give cannabis a voice once more.”

– The Psychedelic Press, UK, December 2010

“Whatever your feelings about marijuana are, it is clear that times are changing and we need the best objective information possible. This book deals with the history of pot and all the safeguards one should know when using it, but it’s loaded, no pun intended, with interviews with many experts in many fields. . . I also found it useful to clear up the many myths around marijuana use.”

– Rahasya Poe, Lotus Guide, January 2011

“Editor Holland has done an incredible job of thoroughly covering the subject from all perspectives. The resource list and bibliography alone are worth the price of the book. I highly recommend this one for customers interested in scientific research into the effects of the drug, its medical uses, its history, law enforcement issues, economic implications of legalizing the drug, and real information to help parents steer their children through the world of recreation drug use.”

– Anna Jedrziewski, New Age Retailer, January 2011

“This really is a complete guide to cannabis. Holland has compiled articles from top scholars around the world. The articles range from science to sociology, from medicine to myths and mythology. The recent history of marijuana has been a politically volatile one, but for thousands of years before that cannabis and especially hemp has been a huge part of human culture.”

–, February 2011

The Pot Book blows away the myths and misconceptions associated with marijuana use and offers social and political solutions to what need not be an intractable problem.”

– Nexus Magazine, December 2010

The Pot Book proves you can have it all. Delving into the medical, political, scientific and cultural dimensions of marijuana, this hefty 551-page book covers a lot of territory that both stimulates cerebrally (check out Chater 4's “The Botany of Cannabis” or Chapter 16's “Arrest Statistics and Racism”) and takes time to prod at the the more light-hearted (but still serious) side of things, such as “Getting Busted is Not So Funny,” an interview with Tommy Chong by editor (and medical doctor) Julie Holland.”

– Matt Tapia, Culture Magazine, March 2011

The Pot Book is a virtual Encyclopedia Cannabinica, with contributions ranging from ancient history to cutting edge research. Stoner culture mavens will read about everything from primitive cannabis cults and ancient Chinese medicine to modern pot culture and politics, and they will be regaled by some of the country's leading experts on various aspects of the world of marijuana.”

–, March 2011

“I enjoyed The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis and I highly recommend it to anyone. The book is an excellent source material for the activist. An overall great read for anyone interested in Cannabis and its role in Medicine, Politics, Science and Culture.”

– Richard Martin JR, Director with Northern Wisconsin NORML, July 2011

The Pot Book sets the stage for activism, introducing the players, the scene, and best of all, encouraging readers to become involved themselves.”

– Karl Krause, Rain Taxi, January 2012

“This wonderful book is filled to the brim with sound research, copious notes and resources. I highly recommend this book to anyone battling health issues and to all who wish to be free from the ‘nanny-state’ mentality that dictates what a healthy adult can or cannot do with a naturally occurring plant. Although illegal, interest in cannabis remains very strong, more so since the debate over its medicinal use continues to make headlines.”

– New Dawn

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