Thank you for sharing. This is so interesting!
You will see that every fictional book on this list will share many of these same features.“After a week of not talking to anyone, I finally called Bob. I know that’s wrong, but I didn’t know what else to do. I asked him if he had anything I could buy. He said he had a quarter ounce of pot left. So, I took some of my Easter money and bought it. I’ve been smoking it all the time since.”
Sorry Alaska, but this isn’t true. Studies have shown that cannabis exposure, even among young people, is not associated with causal, long-term changes in brain morphology. Nonetheless, Looking for Alaska has been high on the American Library Association’s Top Ten Challenged Books list almost every year since its publication in 2005. One Kentucky parent called the novel “filth” and insists it will tempt students “to experiment with pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol, and profanity.”“‘Studies show that marijuana is better for your health than those cigarettes,’ Hank said.
Alaska swallowed a mouthful of French fries, took a drag on her cigarette and blew smoke across the table at Hank. ‘I may die young,’ she said, “but at least I’ll die smart.”
If books like this were more mainstream, maybe more people would be interested in STEM fields. First published in 1974, Marijuana Grower’s Guide has been called “the bible of basic cultivation”. Out of the pack, this book has obviously the most straightforward stance on marijuana, with no need for literary interpretations. In 2004, a man from Jackson, Wyoming took serious issue with the Teton County Public Library carrying Marijuana Grower’s Guide, comparing it to “books on bomb-making, assassination, how to make methamphetamine and child pornography.”“When cannabis becomes legal, commercial seed houses will develop varieties to suit each gardener’s requirements: ‘Let’s see, I’d like something thai grows about six feet in six weeks, develops a giant cola, matures in sixty days, smells like cheap perfume, tastes like heady champagne, and takes me to the moon.’”
20 pages later…“Oh damn, damn, damn, it’s happened again. I don’t know whether to scream with glory or cover myself with ashes and sackcloth, whatever that means. Anyone who says pot and acid are not addicting is a damn, stupid, raving idiot, unenlightened fool! I’ve been on them since July 10, and when I’ve been off I’ve been scared to death to even think of anything that even looks or seems like dope. All the time pretending to myself that I could take it or leave it!”
Go Ask Alice was basically the literary equivalent of Reefer Madness for the 70’s set – with the same level of artistic merit. In summary, Alice (a pseudonym) is a nice and otherwise typical 15-year-old keeping a diary, from the years 1968 to 1970. She moves to a new school where she meets a girl who pressures her to smoke pot. She likes it so much that she figures all drugs are fine. The aptly-named Alice then goes down a rabbit hole of unprotected sex, intravenous drugs, and other hippie horrors. The diary’s last entry is from the book’s editor, Dr. Beatrice Sparks, who claims she received the diary from an actual teenage girl she knew.“The subject of this book died three weeks after her decision not to keep another diary. Her parents came home from a movie and found her dead. They called the police and the hospital but there was nothing anyone could do. Was it an accidental overdose? A premeditated overdose? No one knows, and in some ways that question isn’t important. What must be of concern is that she died, and that she was only one of thousands of drug deaths that year.”
Written entirely in verse, Crank is like Go Ask Alice for the teen-intellectual set. I actually really enjoyed Hopkins’ books when I was a young teen. The grittiness and unique narrative style felt like a nice reprieve to the Twilight and the Gossip Girl books, which were the other popular YA series of the mid-aughts. With that being said, even someone “educated” about drugs by public school curriculum under a conservative Florida government, could surmise that the average teen doesn’t jump from weed to crystal meth at the drop of a hat.“Been smokin’ pot since I was 13,
couldn’t quit if I tried. Besides,
why try? It keeps me happy,
ED is the real deal! (Great influence)
Did you know that this is Banned Books Week? Every year, the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read, and promotes the value of free and open access to information. The Association states, “By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”
Typically, books are challenged or banned by parents, school districts, and those associated with public libraries. Books can be banned for reasons as specific as criticising the lumber industry and promoting witchcraft, but far more typically it is because of sex, drugs, and profanity. This list will specifically focus on books where subject matter involving marijuana resulted in the book being banned.
While NORML advocates individuals should wait until they are adults to consider consuming cannabis, that’s no reason to lie and exaggerate its relative risks and dangers to children who can see through this over-the-top rhetoric. Ironically, most of these books are at least underlyingly anti-drug, and portray marijuana (or specifically marijuana abuse) in a highly negative light. You would think that parents would want their kids to read about the consequences of drug abuse (no matter how fantastical some of these books portray it), not hide them from it.
Here are five times that marijuana contributed to a book being banned!
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
You will see that every fictional book on this list will share many of these same features.
Throughout The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the high school characters use various substances (mostly marijuana) to try to quiet their respective demons, i.e., being gay in a homophobic high school and in love with the closeted quarterback, abused by your boyfriend, in love with a girl who sees you as a little brother, suicidal thoughts, etc. Because this is a Young Adult novel (albeit a very good one), the drug use only makes their problems worse. It also plays into the myth that there is a culture of peer pressure related to trying marijuana, which just isn’t the case. To give the book some credit though, the resulting fallout from their light drug use never gets into too harsh a territory. No overdoses or crack parties.
- Innocent teen protagonist enters a new school and meets new people.
- Teen protagonist is pressured to try marijuana, usually by a love interest. This also acts as a metaphor for losing their virginity, and thus their innocence.
- Not-so-innocent teen protagonist tires of marijuana and gets hooked on much harder drugs.
Author Stephen Chbosky expertly sums up why the book is so often banned and challenged. “Perks (of Being a Wallflower) was banned for reasons of teenage sexuality, drug use, and alcohol. Or as kids call it… going to high school.”
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Sorry Alaska, but this isn’t true. Studies have shown that cannabis exposure, even among young people, is not associated with causal, long-term changes in brain morphology. Nonetheless, Looking for Alaska has been high on the American Library Association’s Top Ten Challenged Books list almost every year since its publication in 2005. One Kentucky parent called the novel “filth” and insists it will tempt students “to experiment with pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol, and profanity.”
The coming-of-age novel revolves around a teenager entering a new boarding school, meeting a diverse group of fellow students that introduce him to drugs, sex, and other mind-expanding elements. The titular character Alaska, acts as the resident manic-pixie-dream girl. The second half of the story switches genres, becoming darker and more introspective. Unlike some of the other books on this list, Looking for Alaska neither demonizes nor praises marijuana. It simply is something that is present in the lives of certain characters. No one is peer pressured, no one “overdoses”, and no one starts smoking meth. In terms of realism regarding teen marijuana use, I personally feel it rings pretty true. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to something as alien to real life like Go Ask Alice.
Marijuana Grower’s Guide by Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal
If books like this were more mainstream, maybe more people would be interested in STEM fields. First published in 1974, Marijuana Grower’s Guide has been called “the bible of basic cultivation”. Out of the pack, this book has obviously the most straightforward stance on marijuana, with no need for literary interpretations. In 2004, a man from Jackson, Wyoming took serious issue with the Teton County Public Library carrying Marijuana Grower’s Guide, comparing it to “books on bomb-making, assassination, how to make methamphetamine and child pornography.”
Wyoming has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the country. Possession of under three ounces of cannabis is a misdemeanor that can be punished with up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine; possession of over three ounces is a felony. Still, there hasn’t been an amendment yet to prohibit cannabis related books. At the time of the challenge, the book was checked out. The Teton County Commission promised it would put the book on hold when it was returned. 17 years later, there has not been an update on if it was returned to the shelves.
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
20 pages later…
Go Ask Alice was basically the literary equivalent of Reefer Madness for the 70’s set – with the same level of artistic merit. In summary, Alice (a pseudonym) is a nice and otherwise typical 15-year-old keeping a diary, from the years 1968 to 1970. She moves to a new school where she meets a girl who pressures her to smoke pot. She likes it so much that she figures all drugs are fine. The aptly-named Alice then goes down a rabbit hole of unprotected sex, intravenous drugs, and other hippie horrors. The diary’s last entry is from the book’s editor, Dr. Beatrice Sparks, who claims she received the diary from an actual teenage girl she knew.
Although Go Ask Alice is militantly anti-drug and pro-chastity, it has constantly been challenged and banned since its publication.
After its massive success, it led to a series of “anonymous” teen diaries edited by Sparks, all focusing on the dangerous the all-American teen faces everyday. Things like sacrificing yourself to Satan (Jay’s Journal) or getting impregnated by your teacher (Treacherous Love: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager) were commonplace in the universe of Go Ask Alice. Just as an archaeologist might dig up a previously undocument prehistoric tooth, Dr. Sparks was extremely adept at tracking down diaries of dead teenagers. These stories served not only as titillation for suburban kids to vicariously live more interesting lives than their own, but also to suburban parents to affirm their own confirmation bias that terrible things happen when kids visit big cities and/or stop going to church.
Eventually, people began getting suspicious when Dr. Sparks – purportedly just the editor – began to try to be somewhat of a literary celebrity. People also noted that “Alice” didn’t really speak like a real teenager, but more in the linguistic vein of a Mormon youth counselor. A Mormon (purported) youth counselor like Beatrice Sparks. After more investigation, it came out that Sparks was a fraud. Not only did none of the diaries come from real people, but she didn’t have a PhD, and most likely was never even a legitimate counselor at all.
If you read Sparks’ books as the fiction they are, they aren’t a bad way to kill a few hours. Again they share the “so bad, it’s good” appeal of Reefer Madness. Unfortunately though, there are still people who take these sorts of wild accounts as fact, and use that false information to advocate against marijuana legalization.
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Written entirely in verse, Crank is like Go Ask Alice for the teen-intellectual set. I actually really enjoyed Hopkins’ books when I was a young teen. The grittiness and unique narrative style felt like a nice reprieve to the Twilight and the Gossip Girl books, which were the other popular YA series of the mid-aughts. With that being said, even someone “educated” about drugs by public school curriculum under a conservative Florida government, could surmise that the average teen doesn’t jump from weed to crystal meth at the drop of a hat.
A major trope of YA fiction, specifically books geared towards girls, is the drug-pushing straw man (usually in the form of a mysterious new boy in school) that simply won’t take no for an answer. Not only is this insulting the intelligence and strength of teenage girls, but it also just isn’t very accurate. Teens are waiting until they are older to try marijuana, especially in places where it is legalized.
It joins the same club as Go Ask Alice, as a vehemently anti-drug book that is still deemed a bad influence to teens. Go figure.
The discovery in 1964 of 500 acres of cannabis growing wild along the banks of the Hunter River inspired a new generation of pot smokers in Australia. But the history of the crop is much older, dating back to the early 1800s, when Britain sent debtors and convicts to start the first hemp colony Down Under. From the November, 1995 issue of High Times comes an excerpt of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, by Jack Herer and John Jiggens, about the little-known history of hemp in Australia.
The Secret History of Hemp in AustraliaWhen a giant patch of cannabis sativa was discovered growing wild in hunter valley, about 100 miles north of Sydney, it sparked the birth of pot counterculture in Australia. But the roots of the crop were much older, dating back to the founding of Australia as Britain’s first hemp colony.
On the morning of November 16, 1964, startled residents of the Australian town of Maitland awoke to the news that the Indian hemp plant—which the newspapers called “the dreaded sex drug, marihuana” had been discovered growing wild along the banks of the Hunter River.
A great mystery was here. The hemp plant is not believed to be native to Australia, yet the sheer size of the Hunter Valley crop seemed to indicate otherwise. The plant was growing along a 40 mile stretch of the river not just in isolated clumps, but in huge infestations covering hundreds of acres.
The radio and TV were swamped with reports about the wild hemp crop. The TV news showed government workers standing in huge paddocks of marijuana, spraying furiously. All the lurid publicity had a powerful effect on the areas young people, who began organizing expeditions to the river.
The time was ripe for the emergence of pot smoking in Australia. The Beatles had just toured the country. For a whole generation waiting to turn on, the only question was, how? The Maitland Mercury was good enough to provide the answer. The plant does not need any special preparation,” the newspaper reported. “Flowering tops of the female plant or the leaves can be cut and dried and used immediately.”
Unlike American ditchweed, Hunter Valley’s wild hemp was a good smoke. Those who ventured there became known in Australian folklore as “the Weed Raiders”—the first pot smokers—legendary characters who came back from expeditions with sleeping bags brimming with reefer and wild tales of monster plants 12 feet high. Both police statistics and popular folklore confirm that the wave of marijuana smoking that was to engulf Australia over the next three decades had its origins among the Weed Raiders of Hunter Valley.
Ultimately, the Customs Department would estimate that 500 acres of the Hunter Valley were heavily infested with cannabis: the largest patch was over 80 acres. The Mercury’srival, the Newcastle Morning Herald, showed a farmer standing waist deep in a 12-acre paddock of marijuana on his East Maitland property. “Since the presence of the marihuana was made public,” the paper reported, “the Department of Agriculture has been receiving constant telephone calls from people who want to know how to produce the drug from the plant.” Like the Mercury, the Morning Herald did not leave its readers guessing for long. Its article the next day informed readers that marijuana merely had to be dried before smoking.
A grapevine of knowledge about good locations soon spread among the young and hip along the coast, from Noosa Head to Melbourne. By 1966, many were becoming wealthy selling herb on Hunter Street. “What happened then changed many people’s lives and led to the hippie generation,” one old surfer reports. “The grass was the catalyst. Those in the know turned many people on, and they turned others on. It spread very fast.”
For locals, the game of Cops and Raiders was lots of fun. “Getting back to the highway with a sugar-bag full of heads and the cops on the prowl could be pretty nervy,” recalls a former Raider. “Some guys used to fill their hubcaps with grass. Others went quietly on moonlit nights and took their time to pick pounds and pounds of herb. From then on, all our lifestyles started to change.”
Along with the weed, rumors spread among the surfers. One was that marijuana had been seen growing in the flower beds of the Maitland police station. Another had it that local farmers were being paid bounties for turning in Weed Raiders. This last rumor was later confirmed by farmers and by published reports of the Department of Customs and Excise. The first busts of any size in Australia happened at Hunter.
“Sure we told the police if we saw them. We had young ones. too, you know.” an old farmer recalls. “Some of these young [Raiders] were pretty blatant. They used to come up to me and ask, ‘Have you seen any of this marijuana round here?’ I used to direct them to a paddock filled with Stinking Roger [a kind of wild Australian marigold which looks similar to marijuana]. ‘There’s tons over there,’ I’d say. Some of the others were a bit more sneaky, and pretended they were only fishing.”
Meanwhile, locals in the valley speculated about the mystery appearance of this crop that had begun to transform their lives. Where had it sprung from? How long had it been there?
According to the Department of Agriculture, this was the first reported case of marijuana growing wild in Australia. The plant was not indigenous and usually had to be cultivated. Yet the sheer size of the crop seemed proof enough that the infestation had occurred naturally.
Some speculated the plants had sprouted from bird seed, which often contains cannabis. But the drug squad discounted this theory, since the hemp seed in birdseed mixtures is generally sterilized. The most popular theory held that the hemp had been planted by Chinese market gardeners—a predictable target. Australia’s first drug laws, against opium smoking, were fueled by virulent, anti-Chinese racism.
Australia As Hemp ColonyIn fact, the roots of this wild Australian hemp crop can be traced back to the founding of New South Wales, the first British colony in Australia. The Hunter Valley crop was first described by Dr. Francis Campbell in his book A Treatise on the Culture of Flax and Hemp, published in 1846:
I found [hemp] growing wild in the greatest luxuriance on the sandy bank of the river Hunter, near Singleton. But whether it had been originally introduced into that part of New South Wales by some settler, or whether the plant be indigenous, I have not yet been able to ascertain. This spontaneous crop appeared to cover about an acre of an extremely loose sandy loam, in a small flat which had been formed by the dislocation of the high bank into the bed of the river…. The plants were all vigorous and healthy, and upon the whole the crop looked dense and evenly.
Dr. Campbell experimented with the seed of this wild hemp and was impressed by its prolific growth rate—as were the farmers in the 1960s, who claimed the plants had one of the fastest growth rates they’d ever encountered.
Current research indicates that the Hunter Valley crop probably originated with the Bell brothers—Archibald and William Sims Bell—the first white settlers of Singleton, in the Upper Hunter, in 1823. Their father, Archibald Bell, had lobbied the British Royal Commission to make Australia a hemp colony for the UK.
Bell’s campaign was hardly heretical. In the 18th century, hemp was as important as oil is in our day. Britain’s wealth and power relied on its navy, and every sailing ship in its vast fleet required half a square mile of hemp every two years for rope, rigging and sails. Thus the cultivation of hemp was, as Dr. Francis Campbell remarked, “a patriotic proposition,” and the British government encouraged the hemp industry with bounties, land grants and free seed to all its colonies.
The period of 1781 to 1786, when the plans were laid for colonizing Australia, was a time of severe crisis in the British hemp industry. Britain relied on Russia for most of its hemp. But in 1781, the Baltic states formed an alliance to cut off British trade with Russia. At war with the American colonies, Britain could no longer get hemp from the USA, either. Britain lost the War of Independence largely because of the crisis in naval supplies.
To overcome this hemp shortage, the British Parliament tried to encourage domestic cultivation with an educational campaign similar to the US Hemp For Victory campaign. This proved unsuccessful, and the government began promoting hemp in Canada, India, Ireland and its newest colony, New South Wales. In 1786, the Cabinet approved a plan for a settlement of convicts and debtors that would grow into a commercial colony, its primary enterprise being hemp.
The first hemp seeds arrived in Australia in 1788 at the beginning of British settlement. They were sent by Sir Joseph Banks, a gentleman explorer and “Father of Australia,” and were marked “for commerce.”
Thus the Hunter Valley crop was intimately linked with the founding of Australia. Its historical significance alone should have guaranteed its preservation. But marijuana prohibition in Australia brought with it a kind of amnesia about the importance of hemp.
The Reefer Madness Campaign of 1938One of the surprising things about marijuana prohibition in Australia was how swiftly it happened. America’s Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was barely a month old when the US consul to Australia, Albert Doyle, wrote to Australia’s prime minister explaining its purpose and requesting copies of all Australian laws regulating cannabis. Barely six months later, the Australian Reefer Madness campaign was launched.
“Drug That Maddens Victims!” shrieked the April 23, 1938 front page of the Australian newspaper Smith’s Weekly. The article was subtitled “WARNING FROM AMERICA,” and informed readers (in capital letters) that the “PLANT GROWS WILD IN QUEENSLAND”—the Australian state due north of New South Wales.
“Under the influence of [this] drug, the addict becomes at times almost an uncontrollable sex-maniac, able to obtain satisfaction only from the most appalling of perversions and orgies,” the paper reported. Although the article was attributed to Smith’s Hawaiian correspondent, its tone and content were remarkably similar to the marijuana hysteria fostered by the infamous U.S. Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger.
Seven weeks later, Smith’s Weekly delivered its second screed: “Drugged Cigarettes: G-Man Warns Australia: FIRST DOPED PACKETS SNEAKED IN.” According to this article, “A few cigarettes containing marihuana—the drug which causes its victims to behave like raving sex maniacs, and has made pathetic slaves of thousands of young Americans—have been smoked at recent parties in Sydney.”
The G-man in question was A. M. Bangs, the head of the Bureau of Narcotics in Hawaii and one of Anslinger’s deputies. The article ends with a series of direct quotes from Anslinger’s Marihuana—Assassin of Youth, establishing beyond any doubt the Anslinger connection. Not surprisingly, during the Reefer Madness period, Smith’s Weekly was backed by Australian Newsprint Mills, which was buying full-page ads to promote its new woodchip paper mill in Tasmania.
Because of the hysteria whipped up by Anslinger, Indian Hemp was quickly added to the list of plants banned by the Local Government (Noxious Weed) Act of 1938. Immediate destruction was to be the rule. But obviously, the authorities missed a few plants, as the re-emergence of the crop in 1964 proves.
The day after the Hunter Valley crop was discovered, the NSW Agriculture Department began a new campaign of eradication. The department confidently predicted that “the bulk of the infestation should be cleared in a fortnight.” In fact, it was to take five years. During the late ’60s, many university students were initiated into the wonderful world of weed during summer holiday stints, when they were hired by the government to clear, burn, poison and essentially exterminate this breed of wild cannabis sativa which had made its home in Australia for over 150 years.