Stoner MacGyver product review: The Little Black Book of Marijuana

Now and then, companies send us medical marijuana-related products ranging from vaporizers to board games. We showcase them in our quasi-regular product review section, Stoner MacGyver. The latest? The Little Black Book of Marijuana by Steve Elliott.

What is it dude? The Little Black Book of Marijuana by Steve Elliott

How much coin will it run me? Around $10.

Where can I get one? Online at Amazon.com is probably your best bet.

Author Steve Elliott has been on top of marijuana lifestyle and news for the last two-plus years over at Westword's sister blog, Toke of the Town. For his book, Elliott has put together a pro-pot primer that breaks down cannabis history, use and culture in a 158-page mini-book. Thought the book doesn't go into much detail in any one area, its generalized approach to the information makes it appropriate for a wide range of readers.

For example, the history section provides a solid overview for the cannabis uninitiated and reinforces some good points -- like the fact that hemp ropes and sails are what got the Mayflower and other ships to America in the first place, and that hemp seeds were among the first crops planted in the New World. The book briefly goes into marijuana prohibition, touching on the elements of racism that helped propel the fears of what people began to see as evil weed, including the demonizing of black jazz musicians who favored a bit of "tea" (as herb was commonly called) now and then.

Elliott also does a good job of describing the health issues surrounding marijuana in a way that your average person might not understand. He talks about how cannabis has stimulated the growth of brain cells in lab mice, but for balance, he also discusses other studies that show cannabis may cause brain function impairment or contribute to schizophrenia.

On the legalization front, the book talks about various movements through the years that have attempted to legalize or lessen the penalties for marijuana. Again, it's probably nothing you super stoners didn't already know. But for the cannabis neophyte or those wanting to get a different perspective than what has been fed to them by programs like D.A.R.E., it's a helpful guide to catch them up to speed with data on things like marijuana arrests in America, the amount of money spent on the War on Drugs and pot laws by state.

The The Little Black Book of Marijuana does tackle cultivation, but on a very elementary level intended more to give readers the general idea behind growing herb as opposed to being an actual grow guide. The book also has a section on marijuana varieties that is in no way comprehensive serves as a basic primer about the many different types of cannabis. I especially liked Elliott's take on marijuana "brand names" and how they have developed from the 1960s era of Columbian, Jamaican and Mexican varieties to the thousands of specialty strains we have today. As a toker in my thirties, it's interesting to learn from the older generation of cannabis connoisseurs.

Most interesting to me was the section on medical uses of marijuana and how ancient Egyptians and Medieval Arabic physicians not only employed cannabis but wrote about its medical benefits thousands of years ago. Elliott also provides a good background history on the medical movement in the United States, going back to the Compassionate Investigative New Drug Study of the 1970s that allowed a handful of federally legal marijuana patients to use cannabis, including outspoken activist Irv Rosenfeld.

Elliott has fun in other sections, like a "Ways to Use Marijuana" chapter that discusses everything from joint rolling to bong smoking. The book offers simple instructions for making ganja butter as well as a few of Elliott's favorite stonerific recipes for edibles. Also enjoyable was the section on marijuana culture, with a brief guide to stoner movies, songs and festivals.

The Little Black Book of Marijuana would be novel gift for the bookshelf of the stoner or medical patient in your life. It probably won't teach a cannabis nerd too much he didn't already know, but that doesn't mean it isn't useful. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Where The Little Black Book of Marijuana really shines is as a guidebook for those new to the world of cannabis -- people like my parents, who know nothing about marijuana except that their son makes a living smoking it every week. Or better, for those patients who are new to using cannabis and are overwhelmed by the culture and history surrounding the plant.

We can't guarantee all products sent in will be reviewed, but if you've got something you think is the greatest invention since sliced pot-bread, send us an e-mail at marijuana@westword.com.

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