This is the great American pot story, a dramatic social exploration of a plant that sits at the nexus of political, legal, medical, and scientific discourse. From its ancient origins, to its cutting-edge therapeutic benefits, to its role in a culture war that has never ceased, marijuana has evolved beyond its own illicit subculture into a dynamic, multibillion-dollar industry. Since 1996, when California voters approved Proposition 215, dozens of state and local governments across the country have circumvented federal authority to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Mining the plant’s rich botanical properties, medical researchers are now developing promising marijuana-based treatments for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, chronic pain, and many other conditions. Martin Lee, an award-winning investigative journalist, examines this complex landscape where legal ambiguity meets scientific breakthrough in a panoramic, character-driven saga.
In Rastafari smoking herbs (cannabis) and tobacco is central to spiritual practices, including grounding (the process of initiation into Rastafari) and reasoning (ritual discussions). This paper presents ethnographic research with Rastafari smokers in England. It shows that smoking is considered a ‘professional’ activity that communicates dedication to the movement, aids in learning different dialects, and facilitates experiences of communication with herbs ‘herself’. Through rituals that ‘professional’ smokers engage in herbs becomes a ‘plant teacher’, which Tupper [2008. The Globalization of Ayahuasca: Harm Reduction or Benefit Maximization? International Journal of Drug Policy, 19:300] defines as ‘a natural divinatory mechanism that can provide esoteric knowledge to adepts skilled in negotiating its remarkable effects’. Appreciation of smoking as a form of multispecies communication between ‘professional’ smokers and ‘plant teachers’ recasts the role of agency in anthropological studies of smoking and contributes to our understanding of consciousness and intentionality in both humans and plants.