Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America

Emily Dufton. Basic, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-465-09616-9
Chronicling the movements for and against marijuana legalization in the U.S. from 1964 to the 21st century, American-studies scholar Dufton argues that grassroots activism and local organizing, rather than politician-led action, have had the most influence on marijuana-policy shifts. Though federal prohibition persists, nearly 200 million Americans live in states where cannabis is either medically or recreationally available. Dufton shows that getting to this situation was far from straightforward. Advocacy groups, including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and individual activists emerged from the 1960s counterculture to make startling gains; by 1978, 12 states had decriminalized possession. But responding to spikes in adolescent use, organized groups of concerned parents successfully pressured lawmakers to revoke these laws and gained sympathy from the fiercely antidrug Reagan administration. Antidrug momentum was blunted as cannabis’s medical applications became more widely known and Californians passed the nation’s first medical marijuana law by a 1996 ballot initiative. Current legalization efforts center on outrage over “racist arrest rates,” prospective economic benefits, and the fact that “millions of Americans continue to smoke pot.” Dufton makes a potent argument that, “more than any other legal or illegal substance, marijuana is a drug that makes people care.” Agent: Rayhane Sanders, Massie & McQuilkin Literary. (Dec.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review listed two incorrect figures. They have been updated.

Reviewed on: 10/09/2017
Release date: 12/05/2017
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-1421-2
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