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Books that burn: Trends in cannabis and literature

Weed and writing have been homies since the times of Herodotus — where else would the ancient Greeks have gotten all their ideas from? Creatives throughout the ages, Shakespeare to Carl Sagan, have made “new” connections while high.

Cannabis can liberate the mind from traditional linear patterns, free up the imagination and expand the perception of time. In short, when consuming cannabis, keep a pen handy; your scribblings might be gibberish —or you could have the next great American classic on your hands.

Lovers of timeless, relevant literature might be happy to know there are weed book clubs cropping up in the age of legalization. The Cannabis Literary Society is a relatively new organization that hopes to pair a good story about weed with a good toke and community. Not your average book club, CLS meets bimonthly and focuses on green stories across genres, and for $42 a month, offers facilitated discussion, guest speakers and of course, high-quality smokables. CLS is based in Denver, Colorado but has plans to start chapters in other Western states.

With snowballing corporate interest in cannabis, whose legal industry sales are forecasted to reach $23 billion in annual revenue by 2020, book publishers will not want to miss out on the “green rush.” Many bigger houses are eagerly publishing cannabis-specific titles, though this has not always been the case.

More publishing opportunities

For a long time, many larger publishers were unwilling to print information about marijuana in any context.

But with all this money at stake, more publishing opportunities appear, but so do corporate takeovers and the mainstreaming of weed culture. So, how to stay true to OG buds and the people committed to keeping weed weird?

Don’t miss our special section on how cannabis and art work together.

Kate Napolitano, senior editor at Plume, collaborated on How to Smoke Pot Properly with David Bienenstock, a contributor to Vice and head of content at High Times.“There’s a certain irreverence to pot culture,” Napolitano says. “We wanted to preserve that, but we also wanted to provide facts for people who want to learn more about pot.” Bienerstock said in a 2016 interview with Vanity Fair that publishers can be a conduit to the mainstream for those who have been dedicated to making marijuana more accessible for a long time.

“We live in a capitalist system, but I think that cannabis should transform capitalism, and not the other way around,” Bienenstock said.

Cannabis literature can also be a space that expands representation of writers of color, particularly because people of color have been criminalized and shut out of business development and entrepreneurship opportunities both before and after legalization.

More high-quality content

Another distinctive trend is more storytelling on the human-interest level for the modern cannabis consumer. Two new publications are Gossamer and Broccoli; both magazines offer substantial free online content, and Broccoli offers to mail subscribers print volumes free of charge.

While they sometimes walk the line between cool and millennial too-cool with their aesthetic, both titles are gorgeously shot sure to please those seeking clean, minimalist vibes. Most importantly, Gossamer and Broccoli add to the conversation about cannabis culture in thoughtful, critical ways, sort of like a New Yorker or a Harper’s for people who also happen to smoke weed. They don’t just advertise and push subscriptions, but curate trippy, beautiful, conceptual art that also relates to cannabis cultures.

Check out our updated map showing shops licensed to sell recreational cannabis in California.

Gossamer has an episodic feel to it. For instance, their Instagram has a permanent story — “Roll A Joint” — which breaks down the sometimes-maddening process of rolling your own spliff in five sensible steps. Broccoli also offers its readers interviews, features, photo essays, and other quirky pieces that amuse and entertain even the stoniest baloney in the audience. I’m excited to see more cannabis-centric content like these for the literary-minded.

So, here’s to keeping it lit in literature. For you nerds out there, head over to this Writer’s Digest post for a list of fictional characters who were probably responsible for the anonymous shipment of 11 pounds of weed shipped to St. Martin’s Press back in 2012. For the record, my money’s on Frankenstein’s monster. Because of the daddy issues.

For a list of my recommendations on cannabis books, click here.


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