Grass Roots

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America


By Emily Dufton

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How earnest hippies, frightened parents, suffering patients, and other ordinary Americans went to war over marijuana

In the last five years, eight states have legalized recreational marijuana. To many, continued progress seems certain. But pot was on a similar trajectory forty years ago, only to encounter a fierce backlash. In Grass Roots, historian Emily Dufton tells the remarkable story of marijuana’s crooked path from acceptance to demonization and back again, and of the thousands of grassroots activists who made changing marijuana laws their life’s work.

During the 1970s, pro-pot campaigners with roots in the counterculture secured the drug’s decriminalization in a dozen states. Soon, though, concerned parents began to mobilize; finding a champion in Nancy Reagan, they transformed pot into a national scourge and helped to pave the way for an aggressive war on drugs. Chastened marijuana advocates retooled their message, promoting pot as a medical necessity and eventually declaring legalization a matter of racial justice. For the moment, these activists are succeeding — but marijuana’s history suggests how swiftly another counterrevolution could unfold.



A Higher Calling

THE HISTORY OF marijuana in America is, to quote its chroniclers the Grateful Dead, a long, strange trip, involving tens of thousands of ordinary individuals who, along with corporations, federal officials, presidents, and first ladies, felt a personal stake in determining the future of pot. They are people who found a “higher calling” in the battle over marijuana rights in America—individuals whose dedication was so complete that they crafted careers out of fighting for or against the drug. But even for those who joined the movement for only a short time, marijuana, and the threat or promise it contains, has long been a powerful motivator, inspiring thousands of activists over the past fifty years to form into two opposing camps, either supporting or denouncing the use of the drug. These activists have worked for years to convince Americans that their view of marijuana is correct, and they’ve sought to counteract each other—as well as the dominant view of the drug at the time—by organizing political protests, national movements, large-scale conferences, and voting campaigns. This is the surprising power of marijuana: not since the battle over the federal prohibition of alcohol has a drug pushed so many to take action, and no other intoxicant in American history has inspired so many people to take to the streets.

But Prohibition ended in 1933 with alcohol’s legality enshrined in a constitutional amendment, and few have questioned its legal status since. Marijuana is a different story. Through powerful arguments and even more powerful campaigns, grassroots activists and their supporters have transformed the reputation—and legal status—of marijuana three times, moving it from legality to illegality and back again. First pro-marijuana activists were responsible for launching the nation’s first drive to decriminalize personal marijuana use in the 1970s, when they succeeded in making possession a civil misdemeanor in a dozen states. In response, concerned parents launched a booming anti-marijuana counterrevolution that demonized, and then outlawed, marijuana in the 1980s, reversing the earlier decriminalization trend. Now, today’s current push for legalization is driven once again by pro-marijuana activists who are inspired by both the drug’s medical utility and a concern for social justice and civil rights. Arguing that marijuana prohibition does more harm than good, modern activists have launched one of the most successful grassroots legalization efforts of all time: twenty-eight states now allow residents to use medical marijuana, while eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational weed.

This history is what makes marijuana unique. Unlike cocaine and LSD, only marijuana has had the distinct ability to move back and forth at the state and local levels—between legality and illegality, acceptance and condemnation—while always remaining federally illegal. And the drug’s rise, fall, and resurrection would have been impossible without the participation of thousands of grassroots activists, many of them everyday people who, over the past fifty years, have continually pushed the use of the drug into new realms.

Of course, marijuana use in America goes back much further than fifty years; it was only in the past five decades that grassroots activists made marijuana their cause. The culture that surrounds the drug stretches back to before the country’s beginnings as an independent nation. Hemp—fiber made from the cannabis plant’s stalk—is one of the strongest and most durable materials in nature, and it was used throughout early American history to manufacture, among other things, cloth, twine, rope, paper, and sails. In 1619, all Jamestown colonists were required by law to grow and maintain hemp, and George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin grew the plant on their plantations and farms for domestic use.1

By the late 1800s, the drug had come to prominence as a useful and widely available medicine and was popular in pain-relieving tinctures sold in local pharmacies. Cannabis was believed to be so safe that the drug was marketed to women through romantic postcard campaigns that showed concerned mothers applying a cannabis salve to soothe the gums of teething babies and relieve children’s colds.2 As a pain reliever, marijuana worked wonderfully. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the principal psychoactive component found in the leaves of the female cannabis plant, is a mild analgesic and antiemetic that was used to treat the pain, cramps, nausea, and fatigue of everyone from nineteenth-century American children to Chinese peasants in the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 B.C.) to Queen Victoria of England, who used it to relieve her menstrual cramps.3

Despite its popularity, however, marijuana’s role in American medicine was short-lived. With the forces of Progressivism rallying around ideals of sobriety and the tide of Prohibition rising, Treasury Department officials lobbied to have marijuana added to the drugs covered by the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, passed in December 1914. The act—sponsored by Representative Francis Burton Harrison of New York and one of the first federal drug control laws—didn’t explicitly outlaw marijuana, but rather regulated and taxed the production, importation, and distribution of opiates and coca products. After the Harrison Act, along with the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, required drug producers to honestly label the contents of their tinctures, cannabis-based medicines slowly were either banned or replaced. Smokable marijuana didn’t qualify as a narcotic, however, and remained in legal limbo until 1937, when the Marijuana Tax Act made the possession or transfer of cannabis illegal, while allowing states to enforce their own marijuana laws and to tax hemp and marijuana cultivation and distribution.

Once effectively outlawed, marijuana took on a second life. Recreational marijuana smoking had been introduced to Americans in the late 1800s by Mexican refugees fleeing the dictatorship of President Porfirio Díaz; as it slowly spread north from the border, the drug grew controversial, primarily because of the people associated with its use. A 1917 report from the Treasury Department noted that in Texas, only “Mexicans and sometimes Negroes and lower class whites” smoked marijuana for pleasure and warned that “drug-crazed” minorities could harm or assault upper-class white women—by far the report’s chief concern.4 Fears about its ability to induce violence would continue to haunt the debate over marijuana throughout the early twentieth century. For instance, films like Reefer Madness, released in 1936, associated marijuana use with murder, miscegenation, and suicide as it showed the transformation of a group of otherwise upstanding young white people into a laughing cabal of maddened criminals.

Even with the drug’s stigmatized reputation, however, marijuana use spread across the country over the next few decades, and its popularity continued to grow. It was the subject of increased debate in the 1930s, when Harry Anslinger took control of the newly founded Federal Bureau of Narcotics and launched a campaign against marijuana that would last the rest of his thirty-two-year career. It was Anslinger, angered by the lack of federal action against the drug, who lobbied for the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. He also published a series of anti-pot articles in The American Magazine. In his most famous, “Marijuana: Assassin of Youth,” which appeared in July 1937, Anslinger warned that the drug was “as dangerous as a coiled rattlesnake” and declared that the number of “murders, suicides, robberies, criminal assaults, holdups, burglaries, and deeds of maniacal insanity it causes each year, especially among the young, can only be conjectured.”5

In part because of its hyperbolically bad reputation, “smoking tea” was celebrated in cities like Los Angeles and New York as the new way to enjoy the Jazz Age or, alternatively, to forget Depression-era blues. Manhattan-based swing violinist Stuff Smith and his Onyx Boys Club summed up their enthusiastic feelings about pot in their 1936 song “If You’re a Viper,” which explained how “a tea” could lighten the spirits of a “viper” hip to marijuana, even in the midst of the Depression.6 Even as Prohibition was repealed and alcohol once again became increasingly available, marijuana remained a popular drug among the urban avant-garde and artistic elite, and, despite the 1937 act, it became easier than ever to obtain.

The drug’s ready availability changed in the 1940s, when World War II transformed marijuana’s doppelgänger, hemp, into a patriotic and necessary crop. By 1942, with hemp from the South Pacific squarely under the control of the Japanese, the US Navy needed additional supplies. In response, the US Department of Agriculture released the film Hemp for Victory!, which encouraged “patriotic farmers” to grow up to 50,000 acres of hemp over the next year to supply the US forces battling the Axis powers abroad. “Hemp for mooring ships; hemp for tow lines; hemp for tackle and gear; hemp for countless naval uses both on ship and shore… hemp for victory,” the film proclaimed as the camera captured American battleships sailing proudly out to sea.7

When the war ended, however, hemp was no longer in demand and marijuana was controversial again. By the 1950s, amid fears of juvenile delinquency, the perceived threat of oversexualized rock and roll, and the rise of footloose teenagers, marijuana sparked terror in adults. Its use, and unavoidable abuse, were themes in numerous “social guidance” films, such as 1951’s The Terrible Truth, which warned young people that “most teenagers start off with marijuana. Then they decide to see if heroin has any kick. It does. Sometimes it takes only a few days to find out they can’t leave it alone.… There are practically no happy endings when you fool with drugs.”8 Unlike the days of Reefer Madness, when the fear was that marijuana would drive users insane, this era was in the grip of a larger social fear that made such warnings about marijuana’s immediate effects pale in comparison. Now the fear was that marijuana would unavoidably lead to other, harder drug use, and this element of the “gateway drug” theory would be endorsed by anti-marijuana activists for decades to come.

But even if the fears about the drug in the 1950s echoed the fears of the 1930s, in many ways it was a golden age for marijuana. Quarantined primarily to circles of artists and musicians in urban areas like San Francisco and New York, marijuana developed a cultish fan base that celebrated the drug’s mysterious and ethereal effects. Beat writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac penned paeans to its liberating potential, and it was shared in the smoky back rooms of jazz clubs in Harlem, inspiring performances from musicians like Charlie Parker, Mezz Mezzrow, and Miles Davis.9 Kerouac credited the increased sensitivity and insight he gained from smoking pot for driving his “wild form,” a new kind of writing that combined jazz with his desire “to catch the fresh dream, the fresh thought,” as though he were “a fisherman of the deep with old, partially useful nets.”10

After a brief period of underground popularity in the ’50s, everything changed in the 1960s, when marijuana was transformed from an avant-garde trend into a national phenomenon led, like many things during that decade, by young people. As trafficking routes from South and Central America solidified and Americans’ taste for the drug increased, marijuana migrated across the nation, its use centering primarily on college campuses. There it found a receptive audience among young people who were terrified of the draft, sympathetic to the civil rights movement, enamored of the free speech movement, and tired of the previous decade’s stunting conventionality. Disgusted by the wastefulness and conformity driving America’s consumer culture and devastated by the wars raging at home for civil rights and abroad in Vietnam, young pot smokers of the 1960s embraced the drug as a signifier of protest, a visible representation of the generational break. Smoking pot in the sixties symbolized rebellion against everything “straight” in American culture: it meant being against the war, against capitalism, against racism and sexism, and, most importantly, against the hawkish, Vietnam-supporting adults who used and often abused alcohol as their drug of choice.

This transformation in drug preference is telling. The more philosophical marijuana smokers of the sixties argued that their drug use was not just a way to alleviate boredom or pain, but represented a deeper cultural shift, an awakening of public consciousness to the injustices of the world. To the hippies for whom the drug was a communal sacrament, marijuana use represented a new take on the American Dream—one that came, according to one hippie, “without the phoniness and hierarchy, the profit and power, the processed food and the three-piece suits, the evening news and the suburban ranch house.”11 The humble weed offered “heads” (a colloquial term for pot smokers) an alternative America, one that emphasized community, authenticity, and a return to nature. Although marijuana use was perhaps the most visible sign of the counterculture, many hippies resisted the media’s urge to collapse the two: as one University of Utah student explained, the movement was “not a beard. It is not a weird, colorful costume, it is not marijuana. The hippie movement is a philosophy, a way of life.”12

Marijuana also quickly became a natural extension, and prominent feature, of the protests that defined the era. At antiwar and free speech gatherings, smoking marijuana became an inherently political act, comparable to other stances that activists were taking and often just as potentially dangerous. Like marching on the Pentagon or occupying university administration buildings, using and possessing marijuana could get activists thrown in jail. Arrests for possession of the drug became increasingly common as authorities cracked down on social rebellion and national leaders, especially Richard Nixon, associated the drug with a broader criminal threat. In some states, marijuana quickly became the drug that authorities targeted the most. In California, marijuana accounted for only 27 percent of all drug arrests in 1960, but by 1967, the year of the “Human Be-In” and the “Summer of Love,” that number had escalated to 61 percent. And whereas only about 5,000 people were arrested annually for marijuana in California at the beginning of the decade, by 1967 that number had grown to 37,514.13

As marijuana became central to antiwar protests and free speech gatherings, the drug itself also became a focus of civil protest. After the first official protest advocating for legalization, launched in San Francisco in August 1964, activists began to see the criminalization of marijuana as one of many things that authorities insisted—incorrectly—were necessary, like segregation and the war in Vietnam. Recognizing that segregation was unnatural and the Vietnam War unwinnable, young people protested them. In the same vein, recognizing that marijuana didn’t cause the criminal insanity, murderous rage, or direct line to heroin addiction that officials and teachers had been warning about for years, young people also began protesting the country’s oppressive marijuana laws. For many, marijuana became one of the clearest signs that the government could lie to its citizens, and they saw in protesting marijuana laws the potential to correct decades of misinformation. As the early activist Kenneth Rice told the underground newspaper The Berkeley Barb in April 1966, “If we can organize all the people who know the truth about marijuana, in all different classes and areas of society, we’ll be able to legalize it.”14

Although he probably hoped that this transformation would happen more quickly than it did, Rice foretold many of the trends that would shape marijuana activism—both for and against the drug—in the years to come. By working to, as Rice put it, tell the “truth” about marijuana, activists have influenced voters and politicians to transform marijuana laws three times. The first change was inspired by the activism of the 1960s: between 1973 and 1978, legalization supporters, modeling the social protests of the previous decade, defended an adult’s right to privacy and sparked the passage of decriminalization laws in a dozen states. In response, concerned parents from across the country formed a national movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s to overturn those laws, arguing that decriminalization had increased adolescent use of marijuana and the drug was too dangerous to warrant only a fine. This movement led to the second major change in marijuana laws, when the Reagan administration oversaw nationwide recriminalization of marijuana and inspired a wider cultural and legal crackdown on drug use. Most recently, activists working to help patients suffering from diseases like cancer, glaucoma, and HIV/AIDS, as well as activists working to correct decades of systemic and racial injustice resulting from the country’s punitive drug war, have launched ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana for medicine and recreation. These initiatives, which represent the third major shift in the country’s marijuana laws, have been enormously successful, and many proponents claim that, with nearly 70 million people living in states where the drug is legal, legalization is here to stay.

That effect remains to be seen, but through each of these historical twists and turns, grassroots activists have been the ones who have led the fight for changes in local and national marijuana laws. Working with politicians and inspiring voters, generations of marijuana protesters have become some of the most powerful activists in American history, doing more to repeatedly change drug laws than any group of advocates since Prohibition. More importantly, these activists have strengthened their case, not by immediately influencing top political leaders, but by going directly to the American people and organizing on the local level until their movements draw national strength. By making powerful, and often sympathetic, claims about the people whom marijuana laws affect the most, these activists have consistently been able to sway public opinion, ultimately transforming political opinion as well. And their influence has been profound. Rarely in the past fifty years have politicians themselves started the process of changing drug laws; instead, they have jumped on the bandwagon only after activists made the shift both popular and politically safe. We tend to associate major changes in the drug war with powerful figures like presidents and first ladies, but in fact it has always been grassroots activists who have led the way.

Grass Roots tells these activists’ stories, from the first protest in 1964 until today. It highlights each movement’s most powerful members and offers their history as both a warning to current activists (hint: even a friendly presidential administration can make an imperfect ally) as well as a source of inspiration (appealing directly to voters works). Furthermore, Grass Roots shows how important marijuana has been for over five decades of American history. The battle over the drug has always been about much more than whether individuals have the right to smoke, eat, or vape it for effect. Instead, questions about marijuana have long been tied to ideas about freedom and liberty, safety and security, and the rights of an individual versus the collective good—themes that are at the core of many other major historical debates. The nation’s ongoing battle over marijuana also highlights Americans’ core concerns over how involved the government should be in citizens’ private lives, whether we should privilege public safety and sobriety over individuals’ ability to do what they want, and who deserves to be punished, or protected, for committing drug crimes. These questions have never been fully answered, and it is marijuana activists who have kept up the debate, continually shifting how Americans talk about the drug and which groups are most affected by changing drug laws.

Most of all, however, Grass Roots shows that, when it comes to marijuana, nothing is certain. Legalization activists today celebrate the passage of recreational use laws and argue that, because of their expansion, the battle is over and legal marijuana is here to stay. But the history of marijuana activism shows that voters are fickle, and that attitudes toward the drug can rapidly change. By exploring the impact of grassroots activists—as well as the roots of “grass” in America—we can see that the discourse on marijuana has always moved in cycles, shifting repeatedly between acceptance and condemnation. Despite what seems like a strong trend toward legalization today, if major problems emerge in states where marijuana has been legalized, or if the Trump administration decides to challenge the new laws, everything could swiftly change, just as happened in the 1970s when parent activists overturned decriminalization laws, or in the 1990s when “Just Say No” was replaced by support for medical—and now recreational—marijuana use.

In short, the story of marijuana in America is far from over, and many new chapters are undoubtedly yet to come. Still, the continuing debate over the merits and dangers of legalization can only be enriched by acknowledging the grassroots activists whose decades-long work to change the country’s marijuana laws has brought us to this moment today. Their history has long gone untold, but by bringing the effects of their activism to light, Grass Roots tells their story, and ours.



AUGUST 16, 1964, was a quiet Sunday in San Francisco. The Giants were set to play the Milwaukee Braves in Candlestick Park that afternoon, while the city prepared to host the Beatles, scheduled to arrive two days later for the start of their first North American tour. Occupied by the arrival of the Fab Four, the police were taken by surprise when twenty-eight-year-old Lowell Eggemeier walked into the city’s Hall of Justice, lit up a joint, and politely asked to be arrested for smoking pot. “I am starting a campaign to legalize marijuana smoking,” he told the stunned cops who watched him take a drag. “I wish to be arrested.” At the time, it was a felony to smoke marijuana in California, and Eggemeier was quickly hauled off to jail.1

Beyond this initial act, not much is known about Eggemeier, the nation’s first grassroots marijuana activist. Reports have called him a peacenik and a hippie, but “hippie” was a loosely formed idea in 1964, one year before thousands of sandal- and bead-wearing youth would descend upon the Haight-Ashbury district and Golden Gate Park. And Eggemeier, a lifelong Californian who wore his hair short and preferred to wear T-shirts and jeans, was not a typical counterculture activist. A quiet, bearded man who enjoyed spending time with his dogs, Eggemeier didn’t realize that his time in the San Francisco Hall of Justice would launch a revolution that would last fifty more years. After serving nearly a year in prison for his act, he returned to his quiet life, abandoning any association with marijuana activism or the people who would continue to fight for his cause.

But for the thousands of young people who followed in Eggemeier’s footsteps, the battle for legalization had only begun. Eggemeier’s action coincided with the rise of a national counterculture, when young people abandoned en masse the strictures and constraints of modern American life and sought to create a new, bohemian approach to living that emphasized peace, creativity, and a willingness to experiment with mind-altering drugs. The hippies who gathered in San Francisco shortly after Eggemeier’s arrest were emblematic of this shift, and when Eggemeier’s lawyer unearthed old government reports that lauded marijuana’s beneficial effects, the hippies were quick to accept his claims. For the thousands of people experimenting with the drug, knowing that the government had once recognized marijuana’s benefits—even if reports on those benefits were over fifty years old—made the contemporary antidrug laws seem like a hoax, and the rising arrest rates an attack on personal freedom.

With support from the poet Allen Ginsberg, marijuana activism soon spread across the country, inspiring protests, garnering followers, and challenging authority along the way. But pro-marijuana activism didn’t stay exclusively focused on the drug for long. The battle for legalization arrived in the United States just as protests were starting in earnest against the Vietnam War, and marijuana activism was quickly subsumed into the burgeoning national antiwar movement. By 1967, when up to 35,000 young men were being drafted each month, the antiwar effort was growing at a rapid rate, with protests taking place everywhere from California to New York to Washington, DC. Given marijuana’s prominence in the counterculture, activists brought the drug to antiwar protests and rallies across the country, merging the act of smoking pot with the cause of protesting the war. Marijuana became a common sight as activists marched on the National Mall and movement leaders promised to “levitate the Pentagon” and exorcise it of its deadly ghosts.

Though rallies for legalization fell to the wayside as the war demanded increased attention, marijuana hardly disappeared from these events. Instead, marijuana’s presence at antiwar rallies had surprising benefits for the legalization cause. Introduced to a far larger crowd at these rallies, the drug quickly became something—and sometimes the only thing—that diverse factions of antiwar protesters had in common. Though certainly not every antiwar activist smoked pot, those who did found common ground, both in their interest in opposing the war and the legal peril in which their marijuana use placed them. As the activist Jerry Rubin remembered, “You started to see more and more people actually high at demonstrations. Now everybody got stoned—everywhere you looked, people would be passing the joint, like a peace pipe. Besides opposition to the war, it was the single most important unifying cultural activity.”2

By 1968, marijuana was no longer simply, as Allen Ginsberg once put it, “fun.” Instead, pot had become fiercely political. The first four years of marijuana activism—from the first legalization protest in 1964 to the national antiwar rallies in 1968—were some of the most tumultuous in the history of the country, and of the drug. Transformed from a “gentle, beautiful thing,” as one pro-pot activist put it in 1964, into one of the most ubiquitous and powerful aspects of protests against the war, marijuana came to signal a shared suspicion of authority. And the activists who emerged from the Vietnam era became some of the most effective organizers of the subsequent legalization campaign, because they understood both the power of collective action and the symbolic power of the drug. Armed with the lessons they learned in the antiwar movement, they were prepared to wage what would become a fifty-year battle for legalization. Even as the American war in Vietnam drew to a close, the battle for marijuana rights had only begun.


  • "Grass Roots is worth the time for anyone interested in the evolution of American drug laws. It's organized effectively, the writing is clear and crisp, and you can read it all in maybe two long flights, assuming your head is clear."—Wall Street Journal
  • "[An] even-handed chronicle... As Grass Roots expertly shows, the dialectical struggle over this most politically charged of products is far from over. We can put that in our pipes and smoke it."—Portland Oregonian
  • "Americans may now walk by medical marijuana dispensaries on their streets and encounter full legalization initiatives on their ballots. Dufton's book provocatively asks (and answers) the question: Why did this take so long? ... Grass Roots reorients the celebratory drug legalization story that is so often told today in a number of ways... [it] shows not just the caprice of U.S. drug policy, but how quickly and dramatically the legal and social changes called for by the hippie generation were quashed, creating a backlash still felt today."—New Republic
  • "A handy guide for weed activists who are returning to the fray with greater vigor than ever before, especially now that the Trump administration is rescinding Obama-era federal protections for the recreational cannabis industry."—Merry Jane
  • "Well researched and packed with insightful analysis... Grass Roots is the best non-autobiographical account of the modern effort to reform U.S. cannabis laws. It's must-read."—Freedom Leaf Magazine
  • "Dufton's work expertly shows the cyclical nature of our society's relationship with marijuana, as well as the deeply entrenched racial and class divides that have added to the illicit nature of the complex drug."—The Riveter
  • "Dufton's book helps us learn from the mistakes of the past and apply that knowledge to the movement to legalize cannabis."—Culture
  • "Dufton's balanced and thoroughly researched book traces the long and still unwinding history of marijuana policy and activism in the U.S."—Booklist
  • "A comprehensive history of marijuana legalization in America...Dufton puts years of dedicated research, interviews, and social scrutiny to impressive use...The author's astute, well-rounded report spotlights the virtual tug of war of the movement and pays close attention to each side's setbacks and advancements. She presents an engrossing, evenhanded timeline of the marijuana legalization revolution and its backlash...A lively, perceptive refresher course on the politics of pot."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "Dufton makes a potent argument that, 'more than any other legal or illegal substance, marijuana is a drug that makes people care.'"—Publishers Weekly
  • "In Grass Roots, Emily Dufton traces the evolution of thinking and activism on marijuana over the past fifty years and provides important recommendations as we grapple with questions of decriminalization today. But even more than a compelling narrative history of marijuana in America, Dufton's is the story of the power of social movements to transform society and of subsequent resistance to those transformations. No matter what side of the marijuana debate you're on, Grass Roots will make you reflect on the meaning of democratic values and the role of government in our lives. A critical read."—Elizabeth Hinton, author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America
  • "A balanced, comprehensive, scrupulously researched, and vividly rendered narrative cultural and political history of marijuana in America. Emily Dufton's passion for her subject matches the fervor of the pro- and anti-marijuana movements she chronicles. This book puts her well on the way to becoming one of the preeminent drug historians of her generation." —Martin Torgoff, author of Bop Apocalypse: Jazz, Race, the Beats, and Drugs and Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000
  • "Emily Dufton has done an admirable job focusing on the activists, both pro- and anti-marijuana, who have helped steer the conversation, and in some cases, the legality of our favorite weed. And she ends with a cautionary note: if you don't defend your freedom, it can be whisked away by a reactionary regime intent on imposing their morality on the multitudes."—Larry "Ratso" Sloman, author of Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana
  • "Emily Dufton populates this brisk, three-act drama with a fascinating cast of marijuana activists and culture warriors, and reminds both sides that the long, see-saw struggle over America's most symbolically potent drug is far from over."—David T. Courtwright, author of Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America and Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World

On Sale
Dec 5, 2017
Page Count
320 pages
Basic Books

Emily Dufton

About the Author

Emily Dufton holds a PhD in American Studies from George Washington University. She lives outside of Washington, DC.

Learn more about this author