Cannabis Books: A Very Short, Opinionated List

I emphasize history, politics and personal experience. Books on science and pharmacology grow quickly out of date. I don’t know anything about horticulture.

Science and Medicine

The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. 486 pages, 2017. Definitive updated consensus assessment of the public health impact from medical and recreational use, by the pre-eminent national scientific organization of independent experts. Free PDF download:


Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana (2nd edition) by Michael Backes. 320 pages, 2017. Generally considered the bible of evidence-based treatment, matching strains to medical conditions.

• Beyond Buds: Marijuana Extracts: Hash, Vaping, Dabbing, Edibles and Medicines by Ed Rosenthal. 264 pages, 2014. Beyond Buds, Next Generation: Marijuana Concentrates and Cannabis Infusions by Ed Rosenthal. 320 pages, 2018. All about concentrates and extractions, in two of the only books entirely devoted to that subject.

Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana by David Casarett. 304 pages, 2015. In a breezy and entertaining book, an Ivy League professor of medicine and expert on pain management learns from patients that medical cannabis works.

High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society by Carl Hart. 352 pages, 2013. An African American science professor looks at a public health issue influenced heavily by race and poverty.

History and Politics

Marijuana: A Short History by John Hudak. 240 pages, 2016. An authoritative social history of public policy and culture in the United States in one quick read.

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari. 400 pages, 2015. Fleshing out his TED talk viewed tens of millions of times, “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong,” the author explains developing research and interviews respected scientific and medical luminaries.

Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific by Martin A. Lee. 528 pages, 2012. Critic of right-wing media takes on the evolution of popular views of cannabis since the 1960s.

Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know (2nd edition) by Jonathan P. Caulkins, Beau Kilmer, Mark A.R. Kleiman. 304 pages, 2016. Commissioned by Oxford University Press, a balanced and readable explanation of the current state of cannabis public policy as well as of benefits and risks from legalization.

Cannabis: A History by Martin Booth. 448 pages, 2004. Traces unexpected and surprising paths how cannabis got to where it is now.

Everything Else

• The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis by Julie Holland, editor. 576 pages, 2010. A classic of collected articles from different authors seeking to cover everything about the subject in one volume.