Book Review: Weed: A Connoisseur’s Guide to Cannabis
Veteran cannabis journalist Ellen Holland delivers with inaugural book.
A longtime former editor at Cannabis Now, Ellen Holland collaborated with acclaimed Oakland grow master Ed Rosenthal on numerous books and currently serves as Editor in Chief of High Times. With the release of Weed: A Connoisseur’s Guide, Holland pulls from her full pedigree to deliver a gorgeous coffee table book that will appeal to newbies and seasoned stoners alike.
Positioned as a reader-friendly guide for finding weed that works, the book also features beautiful photos from acclaimed cannabis photographers, including Kandid Kush’s Chris Romaine and Kristen Angelo. Packed with helpful guidance on everything from terpenes to wellness practices, the main conceit of the tome is to categorize strains into four distinct classes: fruit, floral, fuel and earth.
Through this taxonomy, Holland details the histories and botanical significance of popular strains such as Super Lemon Haze. Taken collectively, Weed succeeds in its ambitions to garner a genuine appreciation for the cherished tradition of cannabis cultivation and the diverse array of strains available today. Additionally, by enshrining these strain histories in paper and ink, Holland ensures such knowledge isn’t lost to the whims of time and THC.
“A lot of the reporting I do, in terms of cannabis writing, turns out to be oral histories,” Holland says. “It’s like Gas Station Bob gave it to Tom, who gave it to Joe, etc., so I’m glad I could get some of these oral histories down on the page. It’s important with so much misinformation out there these days, in terms of lineage and things like that.”
To this effort, Weed also devotes pages to the stories of notable names from throughout Holland’s own time as a reporter on the cannabis beat. They include passages on seminal activist Dennis Peron, beloved hashmaker Frenchy Cannoli and cultivator Swami Chaitanya of Humboldt’s Swami Select.
Perhaps no name in Holland’s book looms larger than that of Ed Rosenthal, her longtime mentor. Renowned both for his cultivation skills and his role in pioneering the concept of cannabis book publishing, Rosenthal’s green thumb appears to be a guiding force in Holland’s latest literary effort.
“I’ve worked with Ed on a bunch of books,” Holland says. “He’s my all-time mentor. You could say this book is an evolution of the things that I’ve learned from working with him. A lot of research I did for this book on cultivars, specifically, came from Ed’s Big Buds books because he always got his information directly from breeders.”
Offering an eye-catching survey of cannabis from the viewpoints of botany, wellness, culture and history, Weed is a concise, clear-eyed tribute to a plant that’s often been victim to myth, disinformation and outright ignorance. Holland’s work is quite an achievement.
The author also notes that her latest book is arriving at a moment when cannabis culture finds itself at a notable crossroads.
“There’s a struggle going on between cannabis activism and the cannabis industry,” she says. “I feel like our mission is to preserve cannabis culture, and what we love about it, and to make sure that we focus on the plant. What’s constantly on my mind is that I don’t want the culture of cannabis to be defined by press releases. I don’t want the culture of cannabis to be defined by a media blitz. I want the culture of cannabis to remain organic and with the people, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”