Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America by Box Brown

Told in his signature style, Box Brown’s latest nonfiction, graphic novel is a deep look into the history of the social, political, and academic war on marijuana use in the United States. Through a wide variety of sources and story-telling techniques, Brown explains the physiological effects of the drug and then follows its cultural origins from India to Central America and its entry into the United States. Much of the book focuses on the career of Henry J Anslinger as the 1st Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and his campaign to outlaw cannabis use because of its perceived immoral, violent, and racial connections to “inferior” peoples, Mexicans and African Americans.

Brown tells the story by depicting court scenes, newspaper stories, and many examples of the propaganda drummed up by Anslinger and his agency. The author includes some examples of positive uses, and the fight doctors and their patients wagged to combat growing public sentiment. For example, easing of chronic pain and aiding appetite for AIDs patients. Yet, he shows vividly how yellow journalism and sensational stories kept cannabis animosity festering.

A common question that always arises when discussing cannabis is why alcohol is legal while marijuana is not. This book does a great job answering that question by looking at the social context of the introduction of the drug into American culture. My only criticism would be that there may have been a few too many examples of the tabloid stories. And I wanted a few pages of speculation into the future of cannabis in the US, especially with laws recently passing in Colorado and California.

Overall, an informative and well-illustrated look into the complex history of marijuana in our nation.

4 out of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, FirstSecond Books, and Box Brown for an advanced copy for review.

The book can be ordered here at Amazon.



7 thoughts on “Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America by Box Brown

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  1. Interesting? I live in California where it is legal now, but I am wondering how long it will take the rest of the nation? I don’t smoke myself, but I don’t much care if anyone else does.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The book was informative about the history of the backlash. A little dry in places.

      I hear you. Especially considering the taxes the government can haul in from it. Seems like it would be a win-win.


  2. This sounds really interesting! I also live in CA and support legalization — and I’m really interested to see more about the history and the answer to the question about cannabis vs alcohol. So glad to have read your review!

    Liked by 1 person

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