Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America

Box Brown. First Second, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-15408-8
This illuminating work by Brown (Is This Guy for Real?) examines the history of the outlawing of marijuana in the U.S. and finds the drug’s restriction is based on racism and falsehoods. Brown begins with the discovery of cannabis and discusses how it affects the body and perceptions, then launches into a long cultural history of cannabis in India and its importation to the Americas by the Spanish. The drug was brought into America by Mexican immigrants in the mid-19th century and later taken up in jazz culture. As lies spread that Mexicans and black people went crazy under the influence of marijuana, becoming violent and overly sexually aroused, presidents Nixon and Reagan cracked down on the drug. Brown’s black-and-white cartoons are simple rather than realistic, but known figures like Nixon are readily identifiable, and each character is distinguished from the next by variations in facial features. The lumpy-headed figures are reminiscent of early comic strips, with anger represented by lightning bolts about the head and cannabis-induced euphoria indicated with a mix of wavy lines and circles. Brown ends on a hopeful note for cannabis users, tracing the medical marijuana legalization movement. This useful work will inform anyone curious about cannabis’s history in America. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2018
Release date: 04/02/2019
Genre: Comics
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