Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup

Many parents won't want their babies to grow up like Mark Haskell Smith. Starting with his "gateway" Pabst Blue Ribbons, he chased the elusive teen high through exotic liqueurs cut with lukewarm Diet Pepsi, 'shrooms, E-bombs and sauvignon blanc before, as he puts it, cocaine, "party pooper that it is, ruined everything." He moved on to sober graduate school in Los Angeles, with only the occasional post-prandial joint to lubricate his Spanish-language skills with South American friends while finishing off their flan. Baby-boomer parents with their Kansas dirt pot and Golden Gate Park days behind them understand guys like Smith. In fact, they envy him--especially when he scores a gig to cover the annual High Times Cannabis Cup competition in Amsterdam.

Heart of Dankness is Smith's laidback account of the modern world of weed--from clandestine California grows (legal in-state, but not nationally) through the primo Hindu Kush fields of India to Amsterdam cafes. If his tale sometimes reads like one of those falsely euphoric, superficial, laugh-laced basement teen shout-out debates about sex and the top 10 Nirvana songs... well, maybe that's what all that ganja can do to a writer who can't quite leave out any of the funny stuff, even if it doesn't really go anywhere or add much to the story. However, no one should come to Smith's trippy search for the world's dankest bud looking for elucidation about the chemistry or commerce of marijuana: just come to enjoy the ride. –-Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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