Cannabis fans and curious readers are both going to have a lovely time smelling their way through the world’s first “Scratch & Sniff Book of Weed.” Released globally right before 420 this year, the 22-page board book is full of silly smells, gorgeous whimsical art and tightly distilled weed facts — with a secret goal of normalizing the once-stigmatized plant.
What this is not is a big book of different bud smells.
That was the original plan, according to co-author Seth Matlins — a marketing guru at a powerhouse talent agency in Los Angeles. Matlins said he saw the mouth-watering photos of cannabis buds on Stock Pot Images (a stock photo service focusing on the cannabis sector) and wanted to do a book of different strain smells.
But the idea ran into an immediate logistical and technical hurdle: None of those rare scents exist.
“What we had in mind was the book ‘Green,’ [but] you’d have to go out and manufacture scents,” Matlins said.
So Matlins and his wife, writer and editor Eve Epstein, pivoted to a second idea: use off-the-shelf scratch and sniff smells to illustrate a cannabis basics book. The world’s library of aromas isn’t very big, Matlins learned. There’s about 100 of them, “and one thing we learned is, damn, it’s so random.”
There’s stuff like hamburger, nilla wafer, pizza and cotton candy, but “one of the things that surprised us was there’s not a truer scent of weed.”
The limitations of the world’s scratch and sniff library proved to be a benefit though, because Matlins and Epstein ended up writing a book for a much bigger audience.
Indeed, the “Scratch and Sniff Book of Weed” could have been a throwaway gag title destined for the Urban Outfitters sale rack. Instead, Matlins and Epstein delve into the 4,000-year history of pot and distill their findings into 22 tight board-book pages professionally printed by global publishing leader Abrams Image.
“There’s not a piece of punctuation or illustration that we didn’t think about in terms of representing the mainstreaming of cannabis culture and the power of this plant,” Matlin said.
The colorful illustrations by Ann Pickard and the playful use of aroma become the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicinal cannabis facts go down. So many weed manifestos these days try to brow-beat readers into joining Team Cannabis. “Scratch and Sniff” is content to tickle and tease its way into hearts and minds.
For starters, the book is dedicated to Mary Jane Rathbun a play on “Brownie” Mary Rathbun — an obscure but elemental figure in medical marijuana history. And 10 percent of all the book’s profits are going to a leading drug law reform advocate, the Drug Policy Alliance.
The book features four recurring characters, and none of them look like “The Big Lebowski” or Jeff Spicoli. They include a senior Asian-American woman, Masako, a young Black man named Otis, a white dad character called Bob, and a young Latina soccer mom named Rosa. For the section on sex, Masako is depicted with another woman in one drawing and with Otis in another.
Hard-core cannabis heads are going to balk at the lack of actual weed smells in the book. The Sour Diesel smells too sweet, the Blueberry Kush smells to candy-like and the OG Kush is missing its bite.
But anyone who’s smoked a lot of ganja will find aromatic nods to weed far beyond the literal scents. The “pine” smell works better as Diesel. The “beer” smell channels the Haze lineage of cannabis. The meat, pepper and burger sniffs evoke certain hashy, peppery and savory indicas.
The whole book is a like a playful sleeper agent, befriending readers with pluckiness, then whispering about social justice issues, cannabis’ rich history, science and the medical conditions it can treat.
The silliness continues this year with a Kindle version of the book, as well.
“We think it’s funny,” Matlins said. “It’s ridiculous there’s a Kindle version of a scratch and sniff book.”
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