Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America

First Second. Apr. 2019. 256p. bibliog. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781250154088.
Gr 9 Up–This graphic narrative traces the role of cannabis in different cultures from the 1500s to the present. The book’s overarching theme is marijuana’s restriction by governing bodies based on overt racism or political agendas. The story includes examples from other countries but focuses on the fascinating and disturbing history of marijuana in the United States. Cannabis was always connected with black and brown people, so-called “inferior races” whose drug use supposedly drove them to insanity and violence, posing a threat to the safety of white America. Multiple studies over time could not prove negative effects, but those outcomes were either hidden or manipulated to support criminalization. The resulting overpolicing of communities of color (despite similar levels of usage in other communities) continues today. Activism during the AIDS crisis opened the door to medical use and, eventually, legal recreational use. The use of cannabis is still a controversial issue. Local laws conflict with more restrictive federal laws, and there is still a correlation vs. causation debate regarding its safety. However, this volume, backed up by an extensive bibliography, emphasizes the history, not the debate. The clear, spare art packs a lot of information into the book’s uncluttered panels. The style effectively explores and illuminates the complex role of cannabis in U.S. society.
VERDICT Although disagreement about cannabis remains, this well-researched book takes an unflinching look at how racism and political agendas have influenced perceptions and policy. For readers curious about the history of marijuana in the United States

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