Plants and People Blog
Entry #8: The Botany of Desire (chapter 3)
Pollan, M. 2001. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s – Eye View of the World. New York (NY): Random House, Inc. 113-179P.
A few years ago, my boyfriend had an 18 year old German exchange student name Leonart that was staying with them as he finished high school. After he was in Kamloops for about a week or so I asked him “What’s your first impression of Canada” and he said
“Marijuana is a really big deal here”
I was a bit surprised since this was coming from a German, but he was absolutely right; it is a big deal here. Marijuana is everywhere, from the news, social media to our neighborhoods and cities. It has become so popular that it seems I cannot go a day without seeing a news article or a post on social media about the stuff. So what is the deal with this plant? This is the question that Michael Pollan tries to answer in chapter 3 of the Botany of Desire as he dives into the desire of intoxication. He explores every aspect of the marijuana plant from the history, effects, and biochemical factors.
I’m going to be honest, with a chapter being about the desire of intoxication I was hoping to be more enthralled and interested than I was. First of all, it was extremely long and there was a lot of information that I didn’t think needed to be added. For example, on page 148- 149 that entire page and half about “memes” was really unnecessary. There was a lot of information that was just cluttering up the chapter and making it more tedious and time consuming to read. Also, I found a lot of the chapter pretty dry especially the historical segments. I may have set myself up for failure, because I set my expectations high, thinking this was going to be scandalous and captivating and it just wasn’t at all. So when it wasn’t what I expected, my focus faded off and I had to re-read many pages because I had forgot what I had read.
It wasn’t all bad there were many parts of the chapter that I thoroughly enjoyed. More specifically my favorite parts were his personal stories dealing with marijuana. I loved at the beginning of the chapter where he told the story of growing marijuana behind his barn, when a police chief comes to his house with a load of firewood. Of course he wants to put it in barn where the marijuana plants can be easily seen, so Pollan has to nervously detour the police chief to dump the firewood right in the middle of his driveway. This story was so funny not only because of the circumstance but how nervous and antsy Pollan gets. He’s able to portray his awkwardness by the key pieces of dialogue he uses, like “Right here, here is perfect. Near the house…burn it right away” (pg. 123). The fact that he is able to make me feel anxious and uncomfortable about his possible detection, just shows his amazing story telling abilities and his use of great literary elements. He uses a couple more personal experiences throughout the chapter and there like a fresh breath of air. After I slogged through a long dry explanation of how hybrid marijuana was needed to grow in the north, I finally got another personal experience. This time Pollan travels to Amsterdam where he visited a modern marijuana garden. I also want to point out the lengths that these authors go to in order to research their topic. They always go about it like it’s no big deal that they just got on a plane and flew halfway across the world just to talk to a few people or research a few things.
Overall it I have mixed reviews on this chapter of the Botany of Desire. Pollan delivers excellent personal experiences, humor, excellent pieces of dialogue and tons of interesting scientific information. However, I do think the chapter is way too long and had some unnecessary information. The whole purpose of this chapter was for Pollan to educate his readers on marijuana and its relationship with humans. Pollan defiantly accomplished that and then some, I have learned more about marijuana than I ever thought I would. I will no longer look at marijuana as just that stuff that stinks up the neighborhood, but a substance that has importance to humans historically and today.