On a weekend when two of the biggest movie releases are “Power Rangers” and “CHiPs,” it’s easy to succumb to the belief that there’s truly nothing new under the sun.
Then along comes “The Scratch & Sniff Book of Weed.”
It looks like a children’s book, with a bright yellow cover, hand-drawn illustrations and those thick cardboard pages that little hands can easily flip. But the content is decidedly adult, with tiny chapters on everything from “The Botany of Buzz” to the legalization movement to weed in the bedroom.
The book, which will of course be released on April 20, was a collaboration between pop culture writer Eve Epstein and marketing guru Seth Matlins, both of Los Angeles.
“I am a big advocate of what the plant can do for people medically and recreationally,” Matlins said. Plus, ever since he listened to Pink Floyd for the first time in 1982, he said he’s personally been a “big fan.”
Matlins is one of the minds behind the Rock the Vote movement of the 1990s. He spearheaded the Truth in Advertising Act, which aims to curb the use of Photoshop and other deceptive practices that contribute to self-esteem issues. Now he works for one of the biggest talent agencies in the country, where he connects big brands to social causes.
So Matlins couldn’t help but emphasize themes of diversity and acceptance, even in a scratch and sniff book about weed.
“One of the things that is most important to us about the book besides it being humorous and informative is that we’ve weaved, both in words and images, racial and social justice themes throughout,” Matlins said.
The main characters in the book – illustrated by Redondo Beach artist Ann Pickard – are an older Chinese grandma, a black college student, a middle-aged white businessman and a Hispanic soccer mom. There are statistics about how much more likely it is that black people will be arrested for dealing weed than white people. And the authors are donating 10 percent of their profits to the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that fights for marijuana legalization around the globe.
The book – subtitled “A physiological, sexual, historical, botanical and cultural trip through the world of cannabis” – also traces the history of the plant, discusses some of its many medical uses, breaks down the science behind the munchies and more.
That’s a lot to pack into 22 pages, which Epstein admits was one of the biggest challenges.
“But that made it stronger, really,” she said. “It forced us to focus our attention on the things that were the most interesting.”
Cannabis hadn’t been a big part of Epstein’s life before she wrote this tale. Her previous book was a playful look at the difference between Generation X and Generation Y, and her articles for publications such as Vanity Fair and Glamour have been more focused on pop culture. But Epstein said she certainly has friends who are weed fans, and that she had no hesitation about diving into that world.
“For me it is a mainstream issue,” she said. “It’s not something anymore that I think people need to have any shame or concern about.”
Matlins said they haven’t had any trouble getting traditional booksellers to embrace their project. “The Scratch & Sniff Book of Weed” will be on storefront tables at Barnes & Noble, and the first run of books is nearly sold out in presale on Amazon.
He attributes the early success in part to the information packed into the pages.
“We challenge anybody, no matter what kind of aficionado they may be, to not learn 20 new things by reading this book,” Matlins said.
But also, the scratch and sniff part is just plain fun.
To be clear, none of the smelly spots actually smell like weed. The Pineapple Express smells like pineapple and the Blueberry Kush smells like blueberry.
Matlins originally envisioned an entire book of different flower strains and their corresponding scents. But he quickly learned it wasn’t logistically possible to capture those sometimes subtly different notes in an inch of scratchable surface. So they got creative.
In the chapter titled “You, On Weed,” the bit about cotton mouth has a spot that smells like cotton candy. In the chapter “Some Dope Dope,” which features nuggets of interesting information about cannabis, there’s a pepper scent to remind readers that sniffing black peppercorns is said to calm anxiety when people get too high. And in the “Hunger Games” chapter, readers can sniff the sweet smell of Pop-Tarts.
“In today’s world, smiles are in short supply. So if we can put smiles on people’s faces, we feel really good,” Matlins said. “And if we can inform people and promote social justice and help the Drug Policy Alliance along the way, then we feel great.”