When Martin Lee was writing Smoke Signals, his comprehensive “social history of marijuana,” he created a deadline by getting Scribner, the publisher, to commit to printing the book in time for the Seattle Hempfest in August 2012. Lee delivered his manuscript on time, Scribner did their part, and last weekend found the author ensconsed in a tent alongside sparkling Elliott Bay, chatting with interested passersby. Lee also gave three talks at the ‘fest, discussing Project CBD (which he directs) and recounting anecdotes from Smoke Signals.
“It’s not just marijuana that got prohibited,” Tod Mikuriya, MD, used to point out, “it’s the truth about history.” Smoke Signals restores the prohibited truth. Lee tells the story in all its interrelated aspects. You can see his range in the following segue: “On August 28, 1964, the day Bob Dylan lit up and handed the Beatles their first joint in a New York City hotel room, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was working intently in his laboratory at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem…”
Few writers with strong anti-establishment views manage to escape marginalization. Lee did so in the 1980s with Acid Dreams, a book about LSD that has never gone out of print. Will Smoke Signals get him an invitation to chat with Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart? Chris Hayes? Bill O’Reilly? We’ll find out in the days ahead… As Obama and Romney keep dodging the marijuana issue this fall, Lee will keep throwing the book at them from wherever he’s speaking.