The Cannabis Books Are Coming
Weed all about it.
The Broccoli Report
Monday, Jan 25, 2021
Time to read: 7 minutes, 52 seconds. 1576 words.
Growing up, I recall that weed-related books felt akin to pornographic material: forbidden and risqué publications. On my first day of college at U.C. Santa Cruz, I remember thrilling to the sight of a High Times displayed in the campus bookstore. Even in 2009, it felt bold and righteously counterculture to be out in the open on the shelf. A year ago, Powell’s Books (a famed Portland bookstore) was still locking up cannabis-related books in a special case.
So, while I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as to say that times have totally changed, they’re changing all right, and today, we’re hitting the books for a clearer picture of the state of readable weed.
This Friday’s upcoming newsletter is a special one, featuring consumer perspectives collected by Broccoli Magazine from around the world and looking at the myriad reasons people are reaching for weed in 2021. Maybe you’ll see an unmet consumer need, just waiting to be served by your genius business ideas? Become a paid subscriber here to receive every Report.
The Weed Books Are Coming: Traditional Publishing Embraces Cannabis (Kind Of)
Back in 2018, Broccoli talked to a literary agent about making a weed book. That particular agent said that she didn’t see a market for it.
Now, everyone reading this newsletter would’ve known in 2018 that the aforementioned literary agent was wrong, and an ever-expanding list of genre-spanning titles is quietly demonstrating that the market for cannabis-themed books may be broader than publishing execs realize. Read on for a recap of an arena ripe with resinous opportunity.
PS: Some of the book links here are connected to Broccoli’s Bookshop profile, so if you order a book via our links, you’ll be supporting indie bookstores and we may get a little affiliate kickback.
Culinary guides and cannabis cookbooks are dominating the lifestyle realm of cannabis books. Bong Appétit by the editors of Vice’s MUNCHIES has been a standby in the space since 2018, and The Art of Weed Butter, Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey’s socially-conscious guide to cooking with cannabis, is already on its second printing. Chef and healer Livvie Vasquez has an e-book on edibles, infusion, and absorption called Smart Infusion, and Edibles: Small Bites for the Modern Cannabis Kitchen by Stephanie Hua and Coreen Carroll (another Chronicle title) focuses on easily dosed, bite-sized creations. The Cannabis Apothecary is a recipe book and guide for using cannabinoids in general from acclaimed cannabis chef Laurie Wolf, and Jamie Hall’s Alternative Alchemy features recipes that incorporate herbs and adaptogens like ashwagandha root powder along with CBD oil.
Interestingly, this saturated shelf of weed-related cookbooks is at odds with how many consumers engage with the plant. Even as a regular user, I am still intimidated by cooking with weed. While I’m happy to see cannabis cookbooks thrive, the ever-expanding list of cooking titles seems to point to a disconnect between what publishers and editors think is marketable versus what cannabis users might use on a regular basis.
Gardening is a category where cannabis-themed books are a natural fit. Empowering options like Nicole Graf’s Grow Your Own, The Cannabis Gardener, Feminist Weed Farmer, and Growing Weed in the Garden make the process of cultivating cannabis accessible to first-timers and those more curious about a one-to-four plant patio harvest than starting a licensed cannabis farm.
Social histories of cannabis are diving into the backstories of the legal market. The recently published The New Chardonnay (Penguin Random House) chronicles the growth of the industry. Journalist and former ABC news correspondent Heather Cabot narrates the establishment of modern weed through her travels from Snoop Dogg’s living room to rural Canadian grows, aiming to capture the story of “marijuana going mainstream.” Katie Couric’s positive review is front-and-center on the book cover, which definitely must be a first for a weed book. I think even Katie knows that when it comes to a plant with a rich, unrecorded history and constantly shifting laws and research, it’s no small feat. Emily Dufton’s book, Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America reaches further back, guiding readers through the early paths of activists, patients, and movements that shaped where the industry has arrived today.
San Francisco-based Chronicle Books is one publisher who hasn’t been shy about cannabis. They published the Pentagram-designed Green: A Pocket Guide To Pot in 2015, as well as three CBD books by Merry Jane: Sex, Wellness, Living. Non-weed-related side note: Chronicle also put out a fantastic book on Ralph Steadman last year, assembling an inspiring memoir of unpublished illustrations by the artist known for visualizing the writings of Hunter S. Thompson.
“Pretty Weed” made the leap from Instagram to print with Gestalten’s High on Design, an aesthetically pleasing snapshot of commercial branding in the early years of whatever era of weed culture we’re in. It’s the exalted publisher’s first foray into cannabis-themed publishing. Given their primarily European audience, it will be interesting to see whether it does anything to ease the anti-weed stigma there.
Looking at these titles, a couple of themes emerge. While small(ish) and indie presses have led the way by publishing cannabis-related books, the Big Five of publishing-land (Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan) are moving into the space. They have been testing the waters with releases that include former Broccoli columnist Lizzie Post’s book on weed etiquette and How to Smoke Pot (Properly), a cheeky guide to consumption; Michelle Lhooq’s Weed: Everything You Want to Know But Are Always Too Stoned to Ask; the medically leaning Women’s Guide to Cannabis; Finding Your Higher Self, a how-to for zenning out with cannabinoids; and Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco, Alia Volz’s memoir (featured in Broccoli Issue 09). Among numerous cannabis-related books coming out of Penguin/Random House this year, High Art debuts in April: a book that explains works of art from around the world along with specific cannabis products to pair with them.
Cooking, how-to, self-help, coffee table books, nonfiction social history, memoir—these are usually siloed publishing verticals. Cannabis crosses all of these genres, and then some. Right now, publishers, agents, and editors seem to be focused on nonfiction, lifestyle, and memoirs, which makes sense—there are lots of people out there trying to learn (and unlearn) a lot about weed. Still, here’s hoping they start greenlighting fictional and creative forays into the world of weed. Will there be steamy bodice-rippers set on a cannabis grow? A detective series featuring a grower/sometime sleuth who solves crime and heals with homebrewed tinctures? A whodunit that ratchets up the tension with every snip at the trim table? Maybe even children’s picture books, like It’s Just a Plant.
And let’s not forget art books—you could fill tomes with the incredible visuals talented stoners make. But watch this space—after that disappointing chat with the literary agent, the Broccoli team decided to take matters into their own hands and become the publisher they want to see in the world. Our first book, Aleia Murawski and Sam Copeland’s Snail World: Life In The Slimelight (about adorable diorama-dwelling gastropods) was released last year and has almost sold out of its first run, and we’ve got some hush-hush projects in the works for 2021. So if you’ve got a weed (or weed-adjacent) book to pitch, hit us up!
One-Hitters: Cannabis News at a Glance
Two years after the Farm Bill was signed into law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized federal regulations for hemp. The USDA is still mandating that hemp must be tested for total THC content, rather than delta-9 THC alone as the industry was hoping, but the threshold for THC has increased from .3% to up to 1% without requiring producers to “eradicate” those materials. That was something Oregon representatives lobbied hard for after hearing from Oregon producers that they were wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars and plants when THC content hit just above the former limit.
In my latest column for Thrillist, I wrote about the new/old smoking paper material being introduced to the North American market by Vancouver, B.C. brand, Herbal Goods Company: sundried ebony leaves from India.
Beer giant Molson Coors is launching a line of CBD-infused beverages in Colorado called Verywell, making for possibly the highest-profile debut for a major food/beverage company to enter the U.S. CBD market. (And so hot on the heels of our analysis of weed beverage trends!) The joint venture between Molson Coors and Canadian cannabis company Hexo is launching with three flavors of the zero-calorie, 20mg CBD sparkling beverage.
Lovepot, the floral delivery service sending dried hemp bouquets nationwide, announces collaboration with New York City florist Oat Cinnamon on two limited-edition bouquets. The fresh (Los Angeles only) and dried bouquets will feature Oat Cinnamon’s signature color palette.
Highlites, a Brooklyn, New York-based platform for yoga, advocacy, and community, launches an online membership program. After hosting meditations and cannabis-friendly yoga classes online for much of 2020, founder Danielle Olivarez has honed her project into a “stoner oasis for those of us who want to be mindful about our consumption, so we can have a healthy and long lasting relationship with Cannabis.” Learn more about Highlites here.
To a higher, lighter week,