Little, black, lit

A tiny, tiny book on medical cannabis stands out among the glut of new pot publications

Get lit with Toke of the Town blogger Steve Elliott’s new book.

Get lit with Toke of the Town blogger Steve Elliott’s new book.

College-bound seniors, prepare for a different kind of DARE. Weed blogger Steve Elliott distills pot’s history—as well as its most germane health, legal and cultural qualities—into his publishing debut, The Little Black Book of Marijuana. It measures just 8 inches by 6 inches and spans a scant 160 pages, yet packs a lot of info on medical cannabis, weed cooking, growing and strains, as well as full-color pictures and illustrations.

Elliott said publishers approached him to write the book, which is intended to serve as a primer for cannabis-culture newcomers. “With the coverage and attention that pot is starting to get, it’s dawning on the American public at large that maybe the majority of people support marijuana-law reform,” the author explained.

“Those of us who are well-versed in the culture forget how bewildering it is when starting to learn about this plant.”

Indeed, The Little Black Book of Marijuana is a handy reference book for aficionados and newcomers alike. Elliott takes on an immense challenge in both filtering weed lore for veracity, then editing down the mounds of research into a readable treat.

George Washington’s diaries, for instance, yield evidence that the nation’s best-known revolutionary grew hemp, Elliott said. The paper on which the Declaration of Independence was written and the cloth with which Betsy Ross wove the first American flag were made from hemp, the book also notes.

And, it turns out, the “architect” of the modern drug war, Henry J. Anslinger, is quite the hate-mongering quote machine, Elliott discovered. “He said some really crazy racist things. When you start looking at his personal correspondence, you get a feel for the man and kind of shudder when you read the things he said and believed.”

Arguments for and against legalization are condensed into an amusing eight paragraphs—a result of its emphasis on brevity and portability. Also, the topic of pot and sex is left untouched, even though “little black book” also once referred to a private list of booty calls.

Family man Elliott said he has no excuse. “There should really be something,” he said. “There is a close connection between the two.”

There’s also zero info on how to buy pot, which has become quite a debacle in Elliott’s adopted home of the state of Washington. This year, medical-cannabis patients cheered a dispensary bill only to see it gutted at the governor’s desk. The city of Seattle then steamed ahead to regulate clubs on its own.

It’s a stark contrast with his native South, where a combination of government, pharmaceutical companies, and Christian fundamentalism make it the beating heart of pot prohibition nationwide. Elliott fled the South first for Los Angeles in 1999, where he started a blog, Reality Catcher. It caught the attention of Village Voice Media, the Arizona company that owns SF Weekly, where Elliott blogged for Chronic City, then launched his national weed blog, Toke of the Town.

Toke reached a record 600,000 page views in June, Elliott said. He has also branched out into dispensary reviews for Seattle Weekly, and edible reviews called “Incredible Medibles.”

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s been one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.”