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Distributed for Reaktion Books


Thanks to its best-known use, any mention of cannabis tends to bring up jokes about the munchies or debates about marijuana and legalized drug use. But this not-so-innocent flowering plant was one of the first to be domesticated by humans, and it has been used in spiritual, therapeutic, and even punitive applications ever since—in addition to its more recreational purpose. Despite all the hoopla surrounding cannabis, however, we actually understand relatively little about it in the human and ecological past. In Cannabis, Chris Duvall explores the botanical and cultural history of one of our most widely distributed crops, presenting an even-handed look at this heady little plant.
Providing a global historical geography of cannabis, Duvall discusses the manufacture of hemp and its role in rope-making, clothing, and paper, as well as cannabis’s use as oil and fuel. His focus, though, is on its most prevalent use: as a psychoactive drug. Without advocating for either the prohibition or legalization of the drug, Duvall analyzes a wide range of works to offer a better understanding of both stances and, moreover, the diversity of human-cannabis relationships across the world. In doing so, he corrects the overly simplistic portrayals of cannabis that have dominated discourse on the subject, arguing that we need to understand the big picture in order to improve how the plant is managed worldwide. Richly illustrated and highly accessible, Cannabis is an essential read to understand the rapidly evolving debate over the legalization of marijuana in the United States and other countries.

264 pages | 70 color plates, 30 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2015


Biological Sciences: Botany

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“A helpful and insightful analysis about the plant. . . . Duvall makes the case that Cannabis is a powerful plant and one that needs to be better understood. He clarifies the confusion over its various names and roles while lending needed ballast to the current conversation. The book brings light to what Duvall calls the shades of meaning in ‘the human-Cannabis relationship, which has unfolded through vast sweeps of space and time.’”

Publishers Weekly

“Clearly written, comprehensive, and rigorously researched, Duvall’s Cannabis is a superb, easily digestable crash course on the history of the remarkably diverse human-Cannabis relationship. As one of the few true scholarly histories of the cannabis plant produced in the last decade, Cannabis clarifies or refutes many of the widely accepted claims about the plant’s origins, dispersal, and history found in a wealth of semi-scholarly works. . . . Brief and highly readable . . . Duvall’s book moves at a brisk and steady pace, riddled with vibrant illustrations and peppered with historical anecdotes integrated so seamlessly that they belie what was surely an excruciating research process. . . . Cannabis is perhaps the most important scholarly work on the plant to date.” 

Hempirical Evidence

“A useful and delightful addition to the world’s library on cannabis. Given that cannabis legalization has emerged as a civil rights issue in our time, I highly recommend it to anyone concerned about the social and political debates concerning this drug today.”

AAG Review of Books

Table of Contents

1. What is Cannabis?
2. Ancient Cannabis
3. Hemp Travels the World
4. The Drug Goes Global
5. Things to Make With and For Cannabis
6. Symbolism Starring Cannabis
7. How Do You Know Cannabis?
Further Reading
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements

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