Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America By Box Brown, 244 pgs.

Cannabis by Box Brown

We can mostly agree that anybody pulling chain over marijuana possession is complete garbage. Even us who don’t partake in the ganja can back that sentiment. Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America is a graphic novel that focuses on the impact of marijuana in the first half of the nineteenth century.

For those who are unhip, Box Brown is an illustrator/cartoonist from Philadelphia, Pa. His most notable works are historical biographies about Andre the Giant, Andy Kaufman’s wrestling career, and Tetris. This time around, Brown takes on what led marijuana to be hated by the government and celebrated by the people.

We go from the earliest known use of marijuana in India where it was mixed in with yogurt and fruit and made into a drink. Then onto the 1930s where Harry J. Anslinger, the founding commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, fought to make weed illegal. Anslinger tried as many scare tactics as he could to convince the higher-ups that marijuana was extremely dangerous and lethal. Most of his scare tactics poked racists’ nerves in order to rile them up. Anslinger fabricated incidents that involved minorities kidnapping white people and forcing them to use the weedpot, usually turning them into dope fiends and serial killers. Brown illustrates these beautifully.

Box Brown’s style of drawing simple characters with very straight and neat backgrounds is very appealing. He has a very unique style and you could spot a Box Brown illustration with a glance from ten to fifteen miles away. In this book, Box does little things like let a character’s ear extend outside of a panel line. And that for some reason brings me great joy.

It’s an easy read that flows great and will turn the suburban-ist of moms into an organizer of a cannabis reform group. Who am I kidding? Most suburban moms get high every day. –Rick V. (First Second, firstsecondbooks.com)