Quick?what do Napoleon's troops, Asian cooking, Armani jeans, the Gutenberg Bible and the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company have in common? According to British novelist Booth (Opium; Hiroshima Joe; etc.), all of these have used some part of the versatile cannabis plant. In this densely packed, wide-ranging history, Booth draws on religion, history, ecology, horticulture, linguistics, pop culture and medical research to correct the falsehoods surrounding the oft-banned plant and to painstakingly build his case that the war on cannabis has little to do with concerns for public health or order. Along the way, Booth introduces a dizzying parade of historical persons that includes visionaries, scientists, beatniks, farmers, artists, soldiers and smugglers. Unlike many of the other more partisan books on cannabis, the overall tone of Booth's volume is objective, unemotional and factual-a stance that makes for fine impartial argument, but also occasionally dull reading. At its best, however, the book's attention to detail lures the reader ever more deeply into cannabis history. Descriptions of hip, mid-century New York, London and Amsterdam, for example, help illuminate the role of cannabis in more recent cultural movements. And a quick survey of the myths about the drug's psychological effects shows how laws banning cannabis were often used as an excuse to suppress blacks and migrant Mexican workers. Booth also discusses provocative legal, political and economic actions (for and against cannabis) that have affected millions of people. In his profile of a plant that can be an intoxicant, fiber, cooking ingredient, medicine and potential source of environmentally friendly products, he gives readers a fascinating sourcebook about ""the most widely produced, trafficked and used illicit drug on earth."" Photos.