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The Chronic: Celebrate 4/20 With New Books on Cannabis

National Hempfest Day (more popularly known as 4/20) is still over a week away, but those who honor the day can start their celebrating early with two new books.

Mark Haskell Smith's Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup (Broadway, $14) is the lighter read, basically an entertaining and trivia-packed tour guide to contemporary high-end-cannabis culture, from the Amsterdam and California botanists who develop the latest gourmet strains to the DEA- (and gopher-) dodging Sierra Nevada mountain farmers who grow them.

For a darker, almost noir-ish exploration of America's history with marijuana, try James Higdon's The Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate's Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History (Lyons Press, $25), in which Higdon documents the rise and fall of a colorful 1980s Kentucky marijuana syndicate that could trace its roots back to Depression-era moonshiners. When the group was eventually busted, 70 conspirators were arrested. The group's massively bearded and often shirtless leader, Johnny Boone, continued his activities after being released from prison and fled for parts unknown after officials found more than 2,000 seedlings in flowerpots on his property in 2008. He is still at large. Whether or not you partake, both of these books deserve your sober attention.

—Timothy Hodler, research director at Details


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