Maggie Nystrom: The Arcata Library Offers A Smoke-Free Way To Learn About Cannabis – July 21, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Last week and this week the Arcata Eye is full of information and views about cannabis. I am fascinated by all of the different views expressed locally. But what are people saying and thinking elsewhere about medical marijuana and cannabis legalization?

One way to get more of an overview of current opinion around the country and state is to look for recent magazine articles. Fortunately, if you have a Humboldt County library card there is a database available to you with complete articles from newspapers, magazines, professional journals and even reference books.

First, go to the Humboldt County Library home page of and then look for the link “Articles and Databases.” Scroll down the page to the heading “General Reference Center Gold” and click on that.

You will then see a search page with a key word window. Type in a few key words, such as “California Prop19” or “medical marijuana” and see how many articles you can find.

If you find that your key words are bringing in too many hits, you may want to try doing a subject search using the advanced search possibilities.

The author’s ultimate conclusion is mixed: marijuana is neither completely harmless nor tragically toxic. Yet his clear presentation of the basic information allows us, the readers, to make more informed choices ourselves.

As the election gets closer, I am sure there will be more articles, so try again every once in awhile.

If you scroll a bit further down the page you will see Health Reference Center Academic. As it sounds, this is a multi-source database that provides access to the full text of nursing and allied health journals.

This would be a good source to see what medical professionals are saying about the uses and abuses of cannabis.

Of the many books about drugs aimed at teens I found William Goodwin’s Marijuana one of the most informed. It gives a history of the legal changes that made marijuana illegal, and a good discussion of both sides of the argument about legalizing cannabis.

While a small book and written for teens, this is a good start for anyone who wants to understand the background of current debates.

Hemp: a short history of the most misunderstood plant and its uses and abuses by Mark Bourrie is more than a history of a plant. Bourrie argues that this exceptionally useful plant has been underutilized due to its “unfair association with marijuana.”

He goes on to explain that hemp, the world’s strongest fiber, can also be used for food and skin care through its seed oil. It also can be refined for paper, clothing and medicine, and can be burned as fuel. The author doesn’t just provide a list of hemp’s commercial uses; he also takes on the controversial topic of its (and marijuana’s) decriminalization for private use, making this book both educational and compelling.

Understanding Marijuana: a new look at the scientific evidence is Mitch Earleywine’s attempt to sort out fact from myth about marijuana. He has analyzed over 500 studies going back to 1671 and as recent as 2001. Because Earleywine, a psychologist, found that many studies ignored crucial information and data in their final analyses, he searched to be sure he had all of the data from any study.

The author’s ultimate conclusion is mixed: marijuana is neither completely harmless nor tragically toxic. Yet his clear presentation of the basic information allows us, the readers, to make more informed choices ourselves.

On a lighter note, Tommy Chong, of the famous comedy team Cheech and Chong, tells about himself and his time in jail in The I Chong: meditations from the joint.

Expanding his act without partner, the aging hipster recalls his impoverished Calgary childhood and salutes his family and friends.

He goes on to describe the 2003 raid and subsequent trial in which the authorities argued that drug paraphernalia supported terrorism. The book’s second half begins as, sporting extra underwear, Chong heads for the minimum-security hoosegow.

Full of Chong’s personal philosophy and insight into people both in the Joint and outside, this book will be a treasure for anyone who enjoyed the author’s movies and comedy records.

Maggie Nystrom is the Branch Librarian at the Arcata Library, 500 Seventh St.


Note: Maybe it’s just us, but the preface Maggie sent in with her column this week majorly tickled our funnybone. Here it is. – Ed.

Here is my column for next week. I hope it is what you wanted. So much on the subject is very overdue or stolen but these are the best of the bunch left.

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