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The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness

The Cannabis Manifesto is both a call to action and a radical vision of humans’ relationship with this healing but controversial plant. Steve DeAngelo, the founder of Harborside Health Center, the world’s largest medical-cannabis dispensary, presents a compelling case for cannabis as a wellness catalyst that must be legalized. His view that there is no such thing as recrea The Cannabis Manifesto is both a call to action and a radical vision of humans’ relationship with this healing but controversial plant. Steve DeAngelo, the founder of Harborside Health Center, the world’s largest medical-cannabis dispensary, presents a compelling case for cannabis as a wellness catalyst that must be legalized. His view that there is no such thing as recreational cannabis use challenges readers to rethink everything they thought they knew about marijuana.

The Cannabis Manifesto answers essential questions about the plant, using extensive research to fuel a thoughtful discussion about cannabis science and law, as well as its biological, mental, and spiritual effects on human beings. With a cultural critic’s eye peering through the lens of social justice, DeAngelo explains how cannabis prohibition has warped our most precious institutions—from the family, to the workplace, to the doctor’s office and the courtroom. In calling for a realistic national policy on a substance that has been used by half of all Americans, this essential primer will forever change the way the world thinks about cannabis, its benefits, and the laws governing its use. . more

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This book makes some really good points. I’m not at all familiar with the cannabis controversy; my main source of knowledge comes from my stoner friends’ Facebook memes, and the book does a good job of explaining the topic. However, it was not very well written. It reads like a high school research paper. The author waxes poetic about cannabis in a downright cheesy way, uses some pretty bad figurative language (the example that jumped out at me the most was comparing a crack down on marijuana la This book makes some really good points. I’m not at all familiar with the cannabis controversy; my main source of knowledge comes from my stoner friends’ Facebook memes, and the book does a good job of explaining the topic. However, it was not very well written. It reads like a high school research paper. The author waxes poetic about cannabis in a downright cheesy way, uses some pretty bad figurative language (the example that jumped out at me the most was comparing a crack down on marijuana laws to Germany in 1932 – cringe), and it’s not well organized. He’ll jump from point to point and goes on tangents that don’t support the main point. In his chapter about how reform is a social justice issue, I thought he’d discuss things like racial disparity in incarceration and the ableism of imprisoning people for self-medication. Instead he barely addresses the first point, then rambles about how he participated in the March on Washington and then starts going on about how he started selling hemp jewelry. Overall it’s a good way to learn about the topic but just a bit annoying to read.

Disaimer: I won this in a goodreads giveaway . more

With legalization gaining steam across the nation, it seems we are about to close the chapter on cannabis prohibition in the long, sordid history of America’s “War on Drugs.” The question is no longer “Will we have full legalization?” but “How soon?” There will no doubt continue to be heated debates about cannabis’s place in American society, but Steve DeAngelo’s The Cannabis Manifesto makes a strong case not only that legal cannabis is here to stay, but that its growing acceptance in our societ With legalization gaining steam across the nation, it seems we are about to close the chapter on cannabis prohibition in the long, sordid history of America’s “War on Drugs.” The question is no longer “Will we have full legalization?” but “How soon?” There will no doubt continue to be heated debates about cannabis’s place in American society, but Steve DeAngelo’s The Cannabis Manifesto makes a strong case not only that legal cannabis is here to stay, but that its growing acceptance in our society should be roundly celebrated.

DeAngelo is a figure with decades of cannabis activism under his belt. Cannabis supporters of all stripes owe him a serious debt of gratitude. Drawing from his deep love for and long history with this remarkable plant, DeAngelo has crafted eight simple maxims that comprise his Manifesto:

––Cannabis is not harmful, but prohibition is.
––Cannabis should never have been made illegal.
––Cannabis has always been a medicine.
––Choose cannabis for wellness, not intoxication.
––Cannabis reform doesn’t harm communities, it strengthens them.
––Cannabis should be taxed and regulated as a wellness product.
––Cannabis reform is a social-justice movement.
––Legalization cannot and will not stopped.

As an unabashed supporter of cannabis, DeAngelo defends each of these maxims with special vigor. His ebullience, however, doesn’t come without the proper support; this slim treatise contains numerous citations, with nearly twenty pages of notes at the end. The Cannabis Manifesto should be taken seriously by cannabis advocates and skeptics alike.

I’ve been a regular cannabis user since my late teens, but have only recently begun to discover its unique place in past and present human cultures. DeAngelo makes it clear that cannabis has always been with us, even when we tried to ignore, destroy, or marginalize it. He is especially candid when describing the absurd contradictions that cannabis prohibition has foisted on modern Americans:

“All over the U.S., parents are hiding their cannabis use from their children, while children are hiding it from their parents. Teachers hide it from their students, and students hide it from their teachers. Professionals hide their cannabis use from the clients they serve, and the clients hide it from the professionals who advise them. Employees hide it from their employers, and employers hide it from their employees. And everybody hides it from the cops.” (7)

Compounding this unpleasant situation, DeAngelo points out that cannabis prohibition in America has always been linked to discrimination against disenfranchised populations. Describing the legacy of the disgraceful Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, he writes:

“The real issue wasn’t cannabis––it was the people who were using it. Today’s pattern of disproportionate enforcement has been with us since the start of cannabis prohibition. It has never been an unintended consequence.” (23)

This is the kind of blunt language we need to precipitate the wave of assent that will finally end prohibition. The plain truth is that cannabis helps millions of Americans treat a wide variety of physical and psychological problems; additionally, droves of “healthy” and responsible cannabis users simply love to get high––and doing so is demonstrably good for us. The sooner our society can own up to that and move forward, the healthier we’ll be.

One of DeAngelo’s strongest assertions is that all cannabis use (not misuse) should be understood as making a positive contribution to the user’s overall wellness. He explains:

“I believe there is no such things as the recreational use of cannabis. The concept is equally embraced by prohibitionists and self-professed stoners, but it is self-limiting and profoundly unhealthy. Defining cannabis consumption as elective recreation ignores fundamental human biology and history, and devalues the very real benefits the plant provides…The vast majority of cannabis use is for wellness purposes.” (66-7)

Although I’m unsure how one might conclusively prove that the “vast majority of cannabis use is for wellness purposes,” I think DeAngelo is basically correct. Our mainstream media has adroitly parroted the drug war ideology of the last few decades, readily bringing our attention to cannabis’s potential to negatively affect individuals and groups. Due to the stigma and fear that arises from this dynamic, we don’t often celebrate the millions of moments every day that responsible cannabis use helps someone heal, stave off chronic pain, relax, have fun, or see the world a different way. When was the last time you read a news story about a college freshman who smoked a joint with his friends and danced his exultant ass off at a concert for the first time? And––more importantly––why should we accept the suggestion that this behavior merely constitutes “recreational use of a controlled substance” and not an instance of increased wellness?

If you accept the wellness paradigm, then DeAngelo suggests that you should also support lenient tax policies for the cannabis industry. I used to say, “Sure, let’s legalize it––then tax the hell out of it and throw the money at our schools and infrastructure.” And while I still believe that should be done to an extent, DeAngelo convinced me that it’s equally important to implement tax structures that expand and preserve the cannabis industry rather than stifling its growth.

If you’re afraid legalization will lead to a small number of huge corporations eventually dominating the cannabis market, DeAngelo has you covered. Cannabis––with its diverse array of chemical elements, strains, delivery methods, and psychoactive/bodily effects––turns out to be the antithesis of alcohol, which has only one active ingredient and affects the human body with stark and deleterious uniformity. DeAngelo recommends that we “avoid the kind of concentration seen in the alcohol industry,” and rightly points out that “no single type of cannabis or manner of delivering it will work for everybody––a wide choice of business models and product types will be necessary to satisfy different market niches” (82). He advocates for a vibrant, intelligently-regulated free market that will reward the best and safest practices while simultaneously marginalizing inferior and black market products. Happily, this is an approach that liberal reformers and pro-business conservatives can both get behind.

Although I think this is a valuable book overall, I have a couple minor critiques that bear mentioning. The first is that DeAngelo hurts his case by associating medical cannabis with controversial “alternative” and “holistic” practices. Here’s a list of services offered at the Harborside Health Center, the Oakland dispensary he founded:

“[The clinic] provides acupuncture, chiropractic, therapeutic yoga, nutritional counseling, herbal therapy, naturopathy, Alexander Technique, Reiki, hypnosis, and any other holistic therapy we find effective or interesting.” (148)

The efficacy of more than a few of these practices is hotly disputed within the medical community, and at least two or three of them boil down to the placebo effect or downright pseudoscience. It’s somewhat mollifying that Harborside offers these “treatments” free of charge, but even so, the overall picture won’t help sway people who are incredulous about cannabis’s status as a legitimate wellness product.

My second complaint is that DeAngelo seems a bit too comfortable avoiding the potential downsides of cannabis use. The text mentions “misuse” a few times, but always fleetingly. While DeAngelo doesn’t explicitly support cannabis use by children or teens (unless it’s a special medical case), he also downplays the possibility that cannabis use might negatively affect the brains of young people––or adults, for that matter. The research here doesn’t seem to be entirely settled, so it would have been nice if DeAngelo had explored both perspectives more thoroughly. But then again, we’re already inundated with reports and testimonials about how destructive and unhealthy cannabis use can be; it’s perhaps unfair to ask DeAngelo to throw us back into that ocean of mistrust, even if some of it is warranted.

DeAngelo leaves us with a insightful and poignant message:

“We are all born into the same web of life; we are all children of Mother Nature, and cannabis is one of the most precious gifts she has given us. When handled with care and respect, the plant can safely provide us with food, fuel, fiber, medicine, spiritual connection, and wellness. Cannabis is a birthright of all human beings, and nobody has ever been justified in trying to take it away from us.” (174)

Today, DeAngelo’s lifelong dream of legal cannabis is only partly realized. With hard work, and a little luck, we can help him finish the job.

This review was originally published on my blog, words&dirt. . more

The Cannabis Manifesto book. Read 23 reviews from the world’s largest community for readers. The Cannabis Manifesto is both a call to action and a radica…