Leafly's last-minute gift guide to epic weed books of 2023
Here's an idea for a resolution for 2024: Please let the stoner myth of illiteracy die. Many people who use cannabis also enjoy reading, researching, and researching information. And cannabis as a subject and topic of photography, study and discourse is getting better every year. How many compelling books on cannabis were there 50 years ago, 20 years ago, or even five years ago? Weed can now be found on the pages of artistic illustrated books, memoirs, anthropological studies and even in etiquette guides.
The holidays are in full swing, Leafly Nation, and we bet you've been leaving some shopping until the last minute. No fear! No matter what state you live in or who the intended recipient is, we've compiled a list of books that show just how enticing cannabis and its associated plants can be.
By Jack Herer
All industries, even all religions, have groundbreaking texts. Whether you grow cannabis, process it, enjoy consuming it, or just know what it is, you can't gain a true understanding of this plant and its place in history without reading The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer read. The year 1985 feels like it was a lifetime ago – because it was. Before there was any kind of cannabis legislation, when the “war on drugs” allowed the “bogeyman” to throw anyone with weed behind bars with impunity, Jack Herer was gathering information about a plant, when it was basically just word of mouth.
This is truly a first draft of cannabis history, complete with the millennia-long legacy of hemp and cannabis around the world and how it eventually became banned and Schedule 1. Since Herer's death in 2010, so close to Colorado and Washington, the adult-use pioneers, his son Dan Herer has worked to update the “Bible of Hemp” with contemporary references, sources and laws.
by David Bienenstock
Author, editor and Leafly contributor David Bienenstock has become a go-to cannabis expert at Vice and High Times, covering cannabis from the perspective of politics, culture and industry. Now he wants to show you how to look like an expert at the session. Every person who has ever smoked weed has rolled a bad joint, puffed too many times before passing, or overestimated their lung capacity with a bong. As cannabis, its amenities, and the places to enjoy it become more accessible, the rules also become more accessible.
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Bienenstock draws on his own encyclopedic knowledge as well as community experts to help readers understand how the cannabis diaspora impacts how we both grow and consume it, and our easy access to it today to be taken for granted.
By David Goodman
If there were any positive aspects of cannabis prohibition, one of them was building a relationship with your weed guy. Even if he wasn't the one growing up, he knew who it was and what to expect. In 2023, when nearly half of the states in the union have legalized cannabis for adult use, you probably don't think too much about who grows your weed when you pick it up from the dispensary shelf. But as professional photographer David Goodman knows, almost every good photo starts with people. His new book, “An American Cannabis Story,” is less about portraits of cannabis plants and more about the people who grow them.
Through text and images, Goodman tells the story of Puffin Farm, a family-run and regenerative cannabis farm in Washington state that received one of the state's first cultivation licenses. Founded by husband-and-wife team Jade and Ben, Goodman follows them and their team through an outdoor growing season and the various products cannabis can become, from jarred flower to concentrate forms like hash and sprinkles. And yes, there are still plenty of beautiful “weed porn” shots out there.
By Seth Warner
This book is not about weed, but it is based on weed. Seth Warner, founder of MycoRising, a psilocybin activist who helped revive the SF Psychedelic Society and directly advocated for the decriminalization of magic mushrooms and other psychedelic mushrooms in Oakland in 2019, had no plans to write a book. He came to the Bay Area on a temporary trip but stayed for the counterculture offerings. After working in the cannabis industry before Prop 64, Warner turned to mushrooms and found both community and a better version of himself through them. He also recognized how commercialization had hindered people's access to quality cannabis and wanted to helping people empower themselves through psilocybin medicine – actually teaching a man to fish.
“There’s a lot of stigma to break through, a lot of hype and unrealistic expectations,” he tells Leafly. “[Legislation] This does not mean that decriminalization is wrong. Let people grow their own plants!”
The book was created when the legendary Ed Rosenthal made a collaboration proposal – and you don't say no to Ed Rosenthal. With Rosenthal as editor, Warner offers an accessible guide to growing mushrooms at home, a “really good starting point” for people seeking a new level of self-enrichment through an ancient medicinal substance.
By Richard Betts with Red Raffe
Sommelier, spirits developer and author Richard Betts knows all about how smell characterizes a good glass of wine or a glass of whiskey. He has helped create “scratch and sniff” books on these very topics, creating a multi-sensory experience of the plant that eventually becomes a drink. We know that cannabis contains over 100 terpenes and no two strains have the same profile of aromatic notes. So it's no surprise that Betts did his scent detective work on some cannabis plants. On these pages you will find practical knowledge about the difference between hemp and cannabis, indica and sativa plant types, and why Trainwreck doesn't smell like gelato.
By Jamie Evans
I think we can all agree by now that the first generation of weed-infused drinks were duds – oily, separating and ineffective. They've gotten better now, but consumers still seem to prefer popping a gummy bear or baked good rather than cracking open a weed soda can. Most people have a signature drink – so if you can't find it in stores, why not make it at home? Sommelier Jamie Evans offers readers several ways to easily and safely infuse any type of drink with your preferred cannabis strain, milligram potency and cannabinoid ratio.
Last year, she told Leafly about infusing drinks: “We can approach cannabis from a gourmet perspective and think about flavors and aromas and how you can incorporate it into a meal,” she told Leafly. “At home, what you need is taken care of. “You can infuse bitters, simple syrup, things that we normally combine into a cocktail and incorporate them into a drink very seamlessly.”
From Broccoli Publishing
When reading the fairy tales from back then, haven't you ever wondered that some of these magical creatures really needed a smoke break? Would the Big Bad Wolf want to eat Little Red Riding Hood if he had a move first? Cannabis publisher Broccoli has always brought a whimsical perspective to all facets of cannabis media, from its great quarterly magazine to more recent ventures into psilocybin and cat content. Her books are shiny, cheeky and, above all, funny. Once Upon a High Time: Weedy Fairy Tales presents over a dozen illustrated stories of princesses, woodland creatures, and troublemakers, all snorting jazz cabbage.
See also: Weed is a Flower, a colorful photo book that arranges cannabis plants alongside traditional bouquets to show how beautiful they can be even when you're not consuming them.
By Dan Michaels and Erik Christiansen
Dan Michaels, author of Higher, knows that cannabis knowledge can sometimes get the best of us and that primary sources aren't always available to us. In his visual history of cannabis, Michaels and photographer Erik Christiansen present an overview of cannabis' global heritage, some horticultural lessons, endocannabinoid science, and weed geography.
The book's main draw, however, is the wealth of strain portraits and biographies that pay tribute to landrace classics like Acapulco Gold, stalwarts like Chemdog, and more recent innovations like Runtz. Stories from cannabis breeders and historical figures such as 420 creators The Waldos, Mila Jansen, the Hash Queen, and breeders such as Compound Genetics, Humboldt Seed Co and Symbiotic Genetics are everywhere.
By Alia Volz
The legalization of cannabis and the fight to recognize its medical legitimacy began in San Francisco, thanks to the sustained efforts of people like Mary Jane “Brownie Mary” Rathbun and other women who advocated for people with it during the AIDS crisis Bringing cannabis into contact. Alia Volz's mother, Meridy, ran her own brownie business, Sticky Fingers, delivering thousands of flavored brownies across the city every month.
“I grew up with the experience of coming from such a different family than other people… that I could never share because it would get my parents in trouble,” she says in an interview for the TOTAL SF Book Club. “The cannabis community really has a culture of storytelling. So if you can trust someone, the floodgates are open.”
The book not only documents her parents' involvement in the emerging cannabis industry, but also draws on dozens of interviews with other members and historical research that contextualizes the personal within the broader cannabis movement. It took over a decade to complete, but it shows that cannabis has always been about community.
By Ed Rosenthal
We would be remiss if we didn't include the godfather of do-it-yourself cannabis cultivation. Ed Rosenthal came to the Bay Area from New York in the '70s to push cannabis reform and stayed because, well, it rocks. He has published a number of books over the last 40+ years, each of which brings something new to the cannabis discussion (spoiler alert – our own David Downs helped him write a few!).
His latest, the 2021 Cannabis Grower's Handbook, is like the latest iOS update, giving you the best information built on prior knowledge. As Rosenthal tells us, “Why rewrite a classic?” Farming methods have changed as technology has advanced, improving quality and consistency. If my other books have helped you grow, the Cannabis Grower's Handbook will take you to new heights.”