The Marijuana Chronicles

The Marijuana Chronicles

by Jonathan Santlofer (Editor)


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"The dramatic stakes may be higher with speed, cocaine, and certainly heroin, but these stories hit the mark."
Publishers Weekly

"Joyce Carol Oates is in a rare class of her own, but she’s just of the right age to have experienced the ’60s and its many forms of annihilating reality. So, too, are some of the other contributors to this collection, including Lee Child and the always enjoyable Raymond Mungo, who has traveled far, from the Haight of yore to the medicinal marijuana boutiques of today."
Kirkus Reviews

"If you are a fence-sitter on the passionately contested pros and cons of marijuana use, after reading this terrific collection you will find yourself falling off and landing on one side of the hothouse argument. Which side? That is for the reader to decide…Akashic Books is to be commended for bringing this eye-opening series to a wider audience. Fresh and informative The Marijuana Chronicles is a gem. Highly recommended."
New York Journal of Books

"This is a book that deserves an eye-level spot on every toker’s book shelf–as well as a thoroughly stoned romp from intro to finale."
High Times

"Pick up this hash-filled assortment, puff on any one of these killer buds and feel a different literary high each time. Marijuana Chronicles is meant to be savored one long drag at a time, allowing the flavor-filled pieces to slowly take over the mind, engulfing it fully."
Criminal Class Press

"The pieces and authors represent a breadth of perspectives that goes far beyond typical stoner fare."
The Beachside Resident

"The stories are astonishingly cerebral, and they are certain to make the rationalizations of even the most staunch supporters or opposers a bit hazy."
San Francisco Book Review/Sacramento Book Review

"The Marijuana Chronicles, it has to be said, is a hopped-up little anthology that really smokes—there's really no better way to put it."
Solares Hill (Sunday supplement to The Key West Citizen)

"The Marijuana Chronicles…is the strongest, most diverse and entertaining collection of the series to date…highly (no pun intended) recommended, even for those who never inhale."

Featuring brand-new stories, poems, prose, and graphics by: Lee Child, Joyce Carol Oates, Linda Yablonsky, Jonathan Santlofer, Abraham Rodriguez, Dean Haspiel, Maggie Estep, Bob Holman, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Amanda Stern, Jan Heller Levi, Josh Gilbert, Edward M. Gómez, Raymond Mungo, Rachel Shteir, Philip Spitzer, and Thad Ziolkowski.

FROM THE INTRODUCTION by Jonathan Santlofer: "Like film, literature has been no stranger to marijuana and hashish, going back to Charles Baudelaire's 1860 Artificial Paradises, in which the French poet not only describes the effects of hashish but postulates it could be an aid in creating an ideal world. The pleasures, pains, and complexities of marijuana are more than hinted at in works by William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, and Thomas Pynchon, to name just a few, and I hope this anthology will add to that legacy and keep the flame of pot literature burning bright . . .

"This diverse group of writers, poets, and artists makes it clear that there is no one point of view here. Each of them approaches the idea of marijuana with the sharp eye of an observer, anthropologist, and artist, and expands upon it. Some writing projects are difficult; this one was smooth and mellow and a continual pleasure . . . I hope you will sit back, relax, and enjoy these wide-ranging tales of the most debated and discussed drug of our time. Though, according to former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 'That is not a drug, it's a leaf.'"

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617751639
Publisher: Akashic Books
Publication date: 07/02/2013
Series: Akashic Drug Chronicles
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 1,128,671
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Santlofer is the author of five best-selling novels, The Death Artist, Color Blind, The Killing Art, Anatomy of Fear, and The Murder Notebook. He is the recipient of a Nero Wolfe Award, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, the Vermont Studio Center, and serves on the board of Yaddo, the oldest arts community in the US. He is coeditor, contributor, and illustrator of the anthologies The Dark End of the Street and LA Noire: The Collected Stories. His short stories have appeared in such anthologies and collections as The Rich & the Dead, New Jersey Noir, and Ellery Queen Magazine. Also a well-known artist, Santlofer’s artwork is in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Newark Museum, Norton Simon Museum, and Tokyo’s Institute of Contemporary Art. He is currently completing a new novel. A native New Yorker, Santlofer lives and works in Manhattan.

Read an Excerpt

The Marijuana Chronicles

By Jonathan Santlofer

Akashic Books

Copyright © 2013 Akashic Books
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-3426-4


my first drug trial

by lee child

Was it smart to smoke a bowl before heading to court? Probably not. The charge was possession of a major quantity, and first impressions count, and a courtroom is a theater with all eyes on just two main characters: the judge, obviously, but mostly the accused. So was it smart?

Probably not.

But what choice did I have? Obviously I had smoked a bowl the night before. A big bowl, to be honest. Because I was nervous. I wouldn't have slept without it. Not that I have tried to sleep without it, even one night in twenty years. So that hit was routine. I slept the sleep of the deeply stoned and woke up feeling normal. And looking and acting normal, I'm sure. At breakfast my wife made no adverse comment, except, "Use some Visine, honey." But it was said with no real concern. Like advice about which tie to choose. Which I was happy to have. It was a big day for me, obviously.

So I shaved and dripped the drops into my eyes, and then I showered, which on that day I found especially symbolic. Even transformational. I felt like I was hosing a waxy residue that only I could see out of my hair and off my skin. It sluiced away down the drain and left me feeling fresh and clean. A new man, again. An innocent man. I stood in the warm stream for an extra minute and for the millionth time half-decided to quit. Grass is not addictive. No physical component. All within my power. And I knew I should.

That feeling lasted until I had finished combing my hair. The light in my bathroom looked cold and dull. The plain old day bore down on me. Problem is, when you've stayed at the Ritz, you don't want to go back to the Holiday Inn.

I had an hour to spare. Courts never start early. I had set the time aside to review some issues. You can't expect lawyers to spot everything. A man has to take responsibility. So I went to my study. There was a pipe on the desk. It was mostly blackened, but there were some unburned crumbs.

I opened the first file. They had given me copies of everything, of course. All the discovery materials. All the pleadings and the depositions and the witnesses. I was familiar with the facts, naturally. And objectively, they didn't look good. Any blow-dried TV analyst would sit there and say, Things don't look good here for the accused. But there were possibilities. Somewhere. There had to be. How many things go exactly to plan?

The unburned crumbs were fat and round. There was a lighter in the drawer. I knew that. A yellow plastic thing from a gas station. I couldn't concentrate. Not properly. Not in the way I needed to. I needed that special elevated state I knew so well. And it was within easy reach.

Irresponsible, to be high at my first drug trial.

Irresponsible, to prepare while I was feeling less than my best.


I held the crumbs in with my pinkie fingernail and knocked some ash out around it. I thumbed the lighter. The smoke tasted dry and stale. I held it in, and waited, and waited, and then the buzz was there. Just microscopically. I felt the tiny thrills, in my chest first, near my lungs. I felt each cell in my body flutter and swell. I felt the light brighten and I felt my head clear.

Unburned crumbs. Nothing should be wasted. That would be criminal.

The blow-dried analysts would say the weakness in the prosecution's case was the lab report on the substances seized. But weakness was a relative word. They would be expecting a conviction.

They would say the weakness in the defense's case was all of it.

No point in reading more.

It was a railroad, straight and true.

Nothing to do for the balance of the morning hour.

I put the pipe back on the desk. There were paperclips in a drawer. Behind me on a shelf was a china jar marked Stash. My brother had bought it for me. Irony, I suppose. In it was a baggie full of Long Island grass. Grown from seeds out of Amsterdam, in an abandoned potato field close enough to a bunch of Hamptons mansions to deter police helicopters. Rich guys don't like noise, unless they're making it.

I took a paperclip from the drawer and unbent it and used it to clean the bowl. Just housekeeping at that point. Like loading the dishwasher. You have to keep on top of the small tasks. I made a tiny conical heap of ash and carbon on a tissue, and then I balled up the tissue and dropped it in the trash basket. I blew through the pipe, hard, like a pygmy warrior in the jungle. Final powdered fragments came out, and floated, and settled.


Ready to go.

For later, of course. Because right then those old unburned crumbs were doing their job. I was an inch off the ground, feeling pretty good. For the moment. In an hour I would be sliding back to earth. Good timing. I would be clear of eye and straight of back, ready for whatever the day threw at me.

But it was going to be a long day. No doubt about that. A long, hard, pressured, unaided, uncompensated day. And there was nothing I could do about it. Not even I was dumb enough to show up at a possession trial with a baggie in my pocket. Not that there was anywhere to smoke anymore. Not in a public facility. All part of the collapse of society. No goodwill, no convenience. No joy.

I swiveled my chair and scooted toward the shelf with the jar. Just for a look. Like a promise to myself that the Ritz would be waiting for me after the day in the Holiday Inn. I took off the lid and pulled out the baggie and shook it uncrumpled. Dull green, shading brown, dry and slightly crisp. Ready for instantaneous combustion. A harsher taste that way, in my experience, but faster delivery. And time was going to count.

I decided to load the pipe there and then. So it would be ready for later. No delay. In the door, spark the lighter, relief. Timing was everything. I crumbled the bud and packed the bowl and tamped it down. I put it on the desk and licked my fingers.

Timing was everything. Granted, I shouldn't be high in court. Understood. Although how would people tell? I wasn't going to have much of a role. Not on the first day, anyway. They would all look at me from time to time, but that was all. But it was better to play it safe, agreed. But it was the gap I was worried about. The unburned crumbs were going to give it up long before I arrived downtown. Which was inefficient. Who wants twenty more minutes of misery than strictly necessary?

I picked up the lighter. No one in the world knows more than I do about how a good bud burns. The flame licks over the top layer, and it browns and blackens, and you breathe right in and hold, hold, hold, and the bud goes out again, and you hold some more, and you breathe out, and the hit is there. And you've still got ninety percent left in the bowl, untouched, just lightly seasoned. Maybe ninety-five percent. Hardly like smoking at all. Just one pass with the lighter. Merely a gesture.

And without that gesture, twenty more minutes of misery than strictly necessary.

What's a man supposed to do?

I sparked the lighter. I made the pass. I held the smoke deep inside, harsh and hot and comforting.

My wife came in.

"Jesus," she said. "Today of all days?"

So it was her fault, really. I breathed out too soon. I didn't get full value. I said, "No big deal."

"You're an addict."

"It's not addictive."

"Emotionally," she said. "Psychologically."

Which was a woman thing, I supposed. A man has a stone in his shoe, he takes it out, right? Who walks around all day with a stone in his shoe? I said, "Nothing's going to happen for an hour or so."

She said, "You can't afford to fall asleep. You can't afford to look all spacey. You understand that, right? Please tell me you understand that."

"It was nothing," I said.

"There will be consequences," she said. "We're doing well right now. We can't afford to lose it all."

"I agree, we're doing well. We've always done well. So don't worry."

"Today of all days," she said again.

"It was nothing," I said again. I held out the pipe. "Take a look."

She took a look. Exactly as predicted. The top layer a little burned, the rest untouched but lightly seasoned. Ninety-five percent still there. A breath of fresh air. Hardly like smoking at all.

She said, "No more, okay?"

Which I absolutely would have adhered to, except she had made me waste the first precious moment. And I wanted to time it right. That was all. No more and no less. I wanted to be ready when the fat guy in the uniform called out, All rise! But not before. No point in being ready before. No point at all.

My wife spent a hard minute looking at me, and then she left the room again. The car service was due in about twenty minutes. The ride downtown would take another twenty. Plus another twenty milling around before we all got down to business. Total of an hour. The aborted breath would have seen me through. I was sure of that. So one more would replace it. Maybe a slightly smaller version, to account for the brief passage of time. Or maybe a slightly larger version, to compensate for the brief upset. I had been knocked off my stride. Ritual is important, and interference can be disproportionately destructive.

I sparked up again. The yellow lighter. A yellow flame, hot and pure and steady. Problem is, the second pass burns better. As if those lower seasoned layers are ready and waiting. They know their fate, and they're instantly ready to cooperate. Smoke came up in a cloud, and I had to breathe in hard to capture all of it. And second time around the bud doesn't extinguish quite so fast. It keeps on smoldering, so a second breath is necessary. Waste not, want not.

Then a third breath.

By which time I knew I was right. I was getting through the morning just fine. I had saved the day. No danger of getting sleepy. I wasn't going to look spacey. I was bright, alert, buzzing, seeing things for what they were, open to everything, magical.

I took a fourth breath, which involved the lighter again. The smoke was gray and thick and instantly satisfying. I could feel the roots of my hair growing. The follicles were thrashing with microscopic activity. I could hear my neighbors getting ready for work. Stark and absolute clarity everywhere. My spine felt like steel, warm and straight and unbending, with brain commands rushing up and down its mysterious tubular interior, fast, precise, logical, targeted.

I was functioning.

Functioning just fine.

A fourth hit, and a fifth. There was a lot of weed in the bowl. I had packed it pretty tight. A homecoming treat, remember? That had been the intention. Not really a wake-and-bake. But it was there.

So I smoked it.

I felt good in the car. How could I not? I was ready to beat the world. And capable of it. The traffic seemed to get out of the way, and all the lights were green. Whatever it takes, baby. A guy should always max himself up to the peak of his capabilities. He shortchanges himself any other way. He owes himself and the world his best face, and how he gets it is his own business.

They took me in through a private door, because the public lobby was a zoo. My heels tapped on the tile, fast and rhythmic and authoritative. I was standing straight and my shoulders were back. They made me wait in a room. I could hear the crowd through the door. A low, tense buzz. They were all waiting for my entrance. Hundreds of eyes, waiting to move my way.

"Time," someone said.

I pushed open the door into the well of the court. I saw the lawyers, and the spectators, and the jury pool. I saw the defendant at his table. The fat guy in the uniform called out, "All rise!"


by joyce carol oates

How much? she was asking.

For she knew: she was being exploited.

Her age. Her naïveté. Her uneasiness. Her good tasteful expensive clothes. Her hat.

Over her shimmering silver hair, a black cloche cashmere hat.

And it was the wrong part of town. For a woman like her.

How much? she asked, and when she was told she understood that yes, she was being exploited. No other customers on this rainy weekday night in the vicinity of the boarded-up train depot would pay so much. She was being laughed at. She was being eyed. She was being assessed. It was being gauged of her—Could we take all her money, could we take her car keys and her car, would she dare to report us? Rich bitch.

She knew. She suspected. She was very frightened but she was very excited. She thought, I am the person who is here, this must be me. I can do this.

She paid. Never any doubt but that the silver-haired lady would pay.

And politely she said, for it was her nature to speak in such a way, after any transaction, Thank you so much!

Self-medicating, you might call it.

Though she hated the weakness implied in such a term—medicating!

She wasn't desperate. She wasn't a careless, reckless, or stupid woman. If she had a weakness it was being suffused with hope.

I need to save myself. I don't want to die.

Her hair! Her hair had turned, not overnight, but over a period of several distraught months, a luminous silver that, falling to her shoulders, parted in the center of her head, caused strangers to stare after her.

Ever more beautiful she was becoming. Elegant, ethereal.

After his death she'd lost more than twenty pounds.

His death she carried with her. For it was precious to her. Yet awkward like an oversized package in her arms she dared not set down anywhere.

Almost, you could see it—the bulky thing in her arms.

Almost, you wanted to flee from her—the bulky thing in her arms was a terrible sight.

I will do this, she said. I will begin.

She'd never been "high" in her life. She'd never smoked marijuana—which her classmates had called pot, grass, dope. She'd been a good girl. She'd been a cautious girl. She'd been a reliable girl. In school she'd had many friends—the safe sort of friends. They hadn't been careless, reckless, or stupid, and they'd impressed their influential elders. They'd never gotten high and they had passed into adulthood successfully and now it was their time to begin passing away.

She thought, I will get high now. It will save me.

The first time, she hadn't needed to leave her house. Her sister's younger daughter Kelsey came over with another girl and an older boy of about twenty, bony-faced, named Triste (Agnes thought this was the name: "Triste"), who'd provided the marijuana.

Like this, they said. Hold the joint like this, inhale slowly, don't exhale too fast, keep it in.

They were edgy, loud-laughing. She had to suppose they were laughing at her.

But not mean-laughing. She didn't think so.

Just, the situation was funny. Kids their age, kids who smoked dope, weren't in school and weren't obsessing about the future, to them the lives of their elders just naturally seemed funny.

Kelsey wasn't Agnes's favorite niece. But the others—nieces, nephews—were away at college, or working.

Kelsey was the one who hadn't gone to college. Kelsey was the one who'd been in rehab for something much stronger than marijuana—OxyContin, maybe. And the girl's friends had been arrested for drug possession. Her sister had said, Kelsey has broken my heart. But I can't let her know.

Agnes wasn't thinking of this. Agnes was thinking, I am a widow, my heart has been broken. But I am still alive.

Whatever the transaction was, how much the dope had actually cost, Agnes was paying, handing over bills to Triste who grunted, shoving them into his pocket. Agnes was feeling grateful, generous. Thinking how long it had been since young people had been in her house, how long even before her husband had died, how long since voices had been raised like this and she'd heard laughter.

They'd seemed already high, entering her house. And soon there came another, older boy, in his mid-twenties perhaps, with a quasi-beard on his jutting jaw, in black T-shirt, much-laundered jeans, biker boots, forearms covered in lurid tattoos.

"Hi there, Aggie. How's it goin'!"

Agnes, she explained. Her name was Agnes.

The boy stared at her. Not a boy but a man in his early thirties, in the costume of a boy. Slowly he smiled as if she'd said something witty. He'd pulled into her driveway in a rattly pickup.

"Ag-nez. Cool."

They'd told him about her, maybe. They felt sorry for her and were protective of her.


Excerpted from The Marijuana Chronicles by Jonathan Santlofer. Copyright © 2013 Akashic Books. Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ii

Part I Dangerous

My First Drug Trial Lee Child 20

High Joyce Carol Oates 28

Jimmy O'Brien Linda Yablonsky 54

The Last Toke Jonathan Santlofer 64

Part II Delirium & Hallucination

Moon Dust Abraham Rodriguez 76

Cannibal Sativa Dean Haspiel 98

Zombie Hookers of Hudson Maggie Estep 102

Pasta Mon Bob Holman 122

Part III Recreation & Education

Ganja Ghosts Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan 128

Acting Lessons Amanda Stern 142

Ethics Class Jan Heller Levi 160

The Devil Smokes Ganja Josh Gilbert 164

No Smoking Edward M. Gomez 182

Part IV Good & Bad Medicine

Kush City Raymond Mungo 202

Julie Falco Goes West Rachel Shteir 214

Tips for the Pot-Smoking Traveler Philip Spitzer 224

Jacked Thad Ziolkowski 230

Customer Reviews