After arriving from South Asia approximately a thousand years ago, cannabis quickly spread throughout the African continent. European accounts of cannabis in Africa—often fictionalized and reliant upon racial stereotypes—shaped widespread myths about the plant and were used to depict the continent as a cultural backwater and Africans as predisposed to drug use. These myths continue to influence contemporary thinking about cannabis. In The African Roots of Marijuana, Chris S. Duvall corrects common misconceptions while providing an authoritative history of cannabis as it flowed into, throughout, and out of Africa. Duvall shows how preexisting smoking cultures in Africa transformed the plant into a fast-acting and easily dosed drug and how it later became linked with global capitalism and the slave trade. People often used cannabis to cope with oppressive working conditions under colonialism, as a recreational drug, and in religious and political movements. This expansive look at Africa's importance to the development of human knowledge about marijuana will challenge everything readers thought they knew about one of the world's most ubiquitous plants.
Thanks to its best-known use, any mention of cannabis tends to bring up jokes about the munchies or debates about marijuana and legalized drug use. But this not-so-innocent flowering plant was one of the first to be domesticated by humans, and it has been used in spiritual, therapeutic, and even punitive applications ever since—in addition to its more recreational purpose. Despite all the hoopla surrounding cannabis, however, we actually understand relatively little about it in the human and ecological past. In Cannabis, Chris Duvall explores the botanical and cultural history of one of our most widely distributed crops, presenting an even-handed look at this heady little plant.
Providing a global historical geography of cannabis, Duvall discusses the manufacture of hemp and its role in rope-making, clothing, and paper, as well as cannabis’s use as oil and fuel. His focus, though, is on its most prevalent use: as a psychoactive drug. Without advocating for either the prohibition or legalization of the drug, Duvall analyzes a wide range of works to offer a better understanding of both stances and, moreover, the diversity of human-cannabis relationships across the world. In doing so, he corrects the overly simplistic portrayals of cannabis that have dominated discourse on the subject, arguing that we need to understand the big picture in order to improve how the plant is managed worldwide. Richly illustrated and highly accessible, Cannabis is an essential read to understand the rapidly evolving debate over the legalization of marijuana in the United States and other countries.