A Bite-Size History of Pot

The Little Black Book of Marijuana is short and sweet, but it leaves readers a bit hungry for more.

College-bound seniors, prepare for a different kind of DARE. Weed blogger Steve Elliott distills pot’s history — as well as its most germane health, legal, and cultural qualities — into his publishing debut, The Little Black Book of Marijuana. Released last week online and in major bookstores by Peter Pauper Press, the little black book measures just eight-by-six inches and spans a scant 160 pages, yet packs a lot of info on medical marijuana, weed cooking, growing, and strains, as well as full-color pictures and illustrations.

Elliott said publishers approached him to write the book, which is intended to serve as a primer for cannabis culture newcomers. It’s part of Pauper’s “Little Black Book” series, which includes books on wine, beer, and sex.

“With the coverage and attention that pot is starting to get, it’s dawning on the American public at large that maybe the majority of people support marijuana-law reform,” Elliott said via phone from Seattle in his thick Alabama accent. “Those of us who are well-versed in the culture forget how bewildering it is when starting to learn about this plant.

“What I imagined happening with this book is people in the know might choose to give this as a gift to a family member who is curious and open-minded but doesn’t know very much yet,” he continued. “I also tried to write it so if you already know I would present it in such a way that it might be enjoyable to remind yourself.”

Indeed, The Little Black Book of Marijuana is a handy reference book for aficionados and newcomers alike. Elliott takes on an immense challenge in both filtering weed lore for veracity, then editing down the mounds of research into a readable treat.

George Washington’s diaries yield evidence that the nation’s best-known revolutionary grew hemp, Elliott said. The paper on which the Declaration of Independence was written and the cloth with which Betsy Ross wove the first American flag were made from hemp, the book notes.

The architect of the modern drug war, Henry J. Anslinger, turns out to be quite the racist-quote machine, Elliott found: “He said some really crazy racist things. When you start looking at his personal correspondence you get a feel for the man and kind of shudder when you read the things he said and believed.”

Arguments for and against legalization are condensed into an amusing eight paragraphs in The Little Black Book — a result of its emphasis on brevity and portability. Also, the topic of pot and sex is left untouched, even though “little black book” once referred to a private list of booty calls. Family man Elliott said he has no excuse. “There should really be something,” he said. “There is a close connection between the two.” (Peter Pauper also publishes Kama Sutra and sex toy books).

There’s also zero info on how to buy pot, which has become quite a debacle in Elliott’s adopted home of state of Washington. This year medical cannabis patients cheered a dispensary bill only to see it gutted at the governor’s desk. The City of Seattle then steamed ahead to regulate clubs on its own. Elliott foresees a ballot initiative to legalize pot in Washington in 2012, and he thinks it’ll pass. About 53 percent of Washington voters favor it, he said.

It’s a stark contrast with his native South, where a combination of Big Government, Big Pharma, and Christian fundamentalism make it the beating heart of pot prohibition nationwide. “I do miss the people,” Elliott said nostalgically of his home. “I know a lot of quality people who will do anything for you. What I don’t miss is the political atmosphere. I feel a lot different here because they don’t want to put me in a cage.”

Elliott fled the South first for Los Angeles in 1999, where he started a blog, “Reality Catcher.” “I just treated it as if it were my full-time job,” he said.

It caught the attention of Village Voice Media, the Arizona company that owns SF Weekly. Elliott blogged for SF Weekly‘s “Chronic City,” then launched his national weed blog, “Toke of the Town.”

“Toke” reached a record 600,000 pageviews in June, Elliott said. He has also branched out into dispensary reviews for Seattle Weekly, and edible reviews called “Incredible Medibles.” The first-time author is excited to be on bookshelves and ready to pen something longer.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s been one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.”

Seeds & Stems

The fourth annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival returns to Golden Gate Park August 12-14, drawing as many as 180,000 people over three days for nearly one hundred bands, including such cannabis-culture classics as Phish, The Roots, Collie Buddz, Lotus, and Best Coast. At the top of the bill: Muse, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, Girl Talk, and MGMT.

“If you are planning on attending this year’s festival, we strongly encourage you to purchase your tickets now before the entire show sells out!” promoters state online.

The event returns to its former glory after shrinking down to two days in 2010. As of press deadline, Friday and Saturday single-day general admission tickets had sold out, while Sunday single-day general admission tickets ($85) had nearly sold out. Day 1, headlined by Phish, is most in demand, according to secondary ticket sales marketplace TicketNetwork, which also reports that Friday tickets fetched the highest average resale price — $217.

(PS: No “illegal drugs” are allowed at Outside Lands. Medical marijuana is a legal drug; however, smoking in a San Francisco public park is prohibited. Potential solution: Pack in some edibles.)


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