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Weed Science - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780128181744, 9780128181751

Weed Science

1st Edition

Cannabis Controversies and Challenges

Author: Godfrey Pearlson
eBook ISBN: 9780128181751
Paperback ISBN: 9780128181744
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 11th July 2020
Page Count: 326
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WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT MARIJUANA AND HOW DO WE KNOW IT? Marijuana is the most frequently consumed illicit drug worldwide, with over 158.8 million users, according to the UN. Responding to public pressure, the US federal government is likely to legalize recreational marijuana within the next few years. With increasing numbers of people using cannabis both medically and recreationally there are many looming questions that only science can answer. These include:

  • What's likely to happen, both good and bad, if the US legalizes marijuana?
  • What are some simple, science-based rules to separate fact from fiction and to help guide policy in the highly contentious marijuana debate?
  • Exactly what is cannabis doing in the brain that gets us high? A journey through THC neuroscience
  • Does cannabis really have medical benefits - what's the evidence?
  • To what extent does cannabis impair driving?
  • Can smoking marijuana in adolescence affect IQ or risk for developing schizophrenia?
  • Is marijuana safe to use during pregnancy?

Key Features

  • Reviews the endocannabinoid system and why our bodies are full of "weed receptors"
  • Introduces readers to the various forms of marijuana: flower, dabs, hash, edibles, shatter, vapes, tinctures, oils and synthetics, THC, CBD and terpenes.
  • Demonstrates how and why cannabis affects different people very differently. Discusses how MRI and PET scans can help show the effects of marijuana on the brain.
  • Discusses long-term effects of adolescent and adult cannabis use.
  • Examines the evidence for cannabis’s role in increasing the risk for schizophrenia-like illnesses.


Popular science readers, everybody who lived through the 60s, stoners, parents, young adults, physicians and healthcare professionals, college counselors, social workers, educators, legislators, scientists of all types and public policy professionals

Table of Contents

1. Introduction - how the author became acquainted with cannabis
2. Good Science and Bad Science - how science helps us think about contentious social issues
3. Holi - what an ancient Hindu festival can teach us about safe marijuana use
4. Archaeology and Ethnobotany - the long historical relationship humans have with cannabis
5. Neuroscience - the endocannabinoid system, how it evolved and what it does
6. Psychology + Human Behavior - what is it like to be stoned and what goes on in our brains when we are?
7. Epidemiology - what can population studies tell us about cannabis risks?
8. Toxicology - cannabis’ side effects and how they occur. Synthetic cannabinoids
9. Chemical Analysis and Extraction - the eternal quest for a higher high
10. Medical Marijuana and Clinical Trials - what’s the evidence for marijuana as a medicine?
11. Economic/Business -who stands to gain and to lose, if cannabis is legalized in the US?
12. Summary/Conclusion - harm reduction; lessons from ending alcohol prohibition and from what’s going on in Canada


No. of pages:
© Academic Press 2020
11th July 2020
Academic Press
eBook ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:

About the Author

Godfrey Pearlson

Godfrey Pearlson, award-winning physician and researcher, completed his medical degree at Newcastle University in the UK and a graduate philosophy degree at Columbia University in NYC. He trained in psychiatry and was subsequently a psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University. He is currently professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Yale University and directs a brain research center at the Institute of Living in Connecticut. He has published over 700 peer-reviewed scientific articles and his marijuana research is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Dr. Pearlson is an expert in the fields of marijuana and of psychosis. He believes that any political platforms regarding cannabis should be based on scientific facts rather than emotion.

Affiliations and Expertise

Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Yale University, New Haven, CT and Director, Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, Institute of Living, Hartford, CT, USA


"…the great surprise about Weed Science is the writing. Most readers, myself among them, struggle to slog through the numbing jargon of journal articles - they can often be as dry as that old bag of marijuana that was stashed in the garage three years ago and forgotten. Dr. Pearlson is a fine writer with a well-honed sense of humor that adds some sheen to material that could otherwise come off as dutifully academic. Even though he takes science seriously he also makes it enjoyable - no easy feat." --Joe Dolce, Author, Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Uncharted World of Cannabis

"Dr. Pearlson clearly does not have an ax to grind nor does he come across as a proponent of legalization. This book reads as if the author enjoyed writing it, and not surprisingly, it is a book that is fun to read. The book is informative – even for someone who already has expertise in this area – covering topic as diverse as how to evaluate research on the health effects of cannabis and how cannabinoids work in the brain and body. I can totally see my students enjoying this book. For my future cannabis and health courses at the University of Colorado as well as my courses on Coursera, I will be recommending this book!" -- Kent Hutchison, PhD, Professor of Ssychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Founder of the Center for Research and Education Addressing Cannabis and Health. (Dr. Hutchison served on the 2016 National Academy of Sciences committee that published a comprehensive report on the health effects of cannabis.)

"Weed Science concisely and clearly lays out a breadth of information concerning marijuana and the biological systems upon which it acts, ranging from the history of its use to the evolutionary biology of the endocannabinoid system. Complex topics such as the possible causal role of marijuana exposure to schizophrenia are presented in an analytical evidence-based manner reminding us that correlation is not the same as cause and that in this case common underlying factors might be at the basis of both mental illness and drug use, while the two can then interact and amplify each other. The potential medicinal properties of the principal cannabinoids, THC and CBD, are examined in detail while reminding us that effects could depend on dosage as well as underlying condition. This book is written in a manner that is both accessible to the literate lay reader, to the interested student, and the academic. I plan to recommended Weed Science as a must read at UC San Diego's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research." -- Igor Grant MD Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego.

"Weed Science is a highly informative, engaging and up-to-date journey through the history, epidemiology, toxicology, psychology, neuroscience, and economics of cannabis. Dr. Pearlson is a superb writer who cleverly engages us with an informal, down-to-earth, and accessible style that takes us through a thoughtful journey of all things cannabis. Unlike the usual dense tomb of complex words and overwhelming facts that can quickly dull a read, Dr. Pearlson shares his experiences, knowledge and own research with a twinkle in his eye, cleverly pacing the reader through light and engaging narratives with more science-oriented sections. To end the book, Dr. Pearlson presents a well-considered set of policy recommendations for cannabis regulation." -- Bryon Adinoff, MD. Distinguished Professor of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (retired). Clinical Professor, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Executive Vice President, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation. Editor-in-Chief, American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

"In Weed Science, Godfrey Pearlson summarizes the vast amount of scientific literature on cannabis comprehensively, concisely, and with humor. It is rare to read a scientific report that is so entertaining, that summarizes the current state of the science on cannabis comprehensively and concisely. Godfrey uses his wit and intelligence to condense the body of literature on cannabis into a very enjoying and approachable read. The book is almost entertaining enough to forget that it is informative. One of the most entertaining scientific reports that I have ever read." -- Bradley Conner PhD. Director of Addiction Counseling, Associate Professor, Colorado State University

"I found Weed Science to be an outstanding presentation of the history, science, use (and abuse) of Cannabis and the personal and social aspects related to its use. I was particularly impressed by its description of the changes of consciousness under the influence of cannabis. One can really ask, after reading your book: Are the levels of endogenous cannabinoids a major factor in our personality profile?" -- Dr. Raphael Mechoulam MD, Award-winning Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products, Hebrew University, (The grandfather of cannabis research)

"It’s hard for me to wrap my head around how, Dr. Peralson ever managed to pull so much diverse information together, going deep, and making it easily digestible. It’s quite an accomplishment." -- William Iacono PhD. Regents Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Co-Director, Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research.

"Scientists aren’t often known for their skill in relating a gripping narrative that educates in equal measure to how it entertains. World renowned neuroscientist Dr. Godfrey Pearlson prodigiously demonstrates that exact skill in his remarkable and highly accessible new book "Weed Science". With succinct, in-depth analyses of ethnobotany, plant biology, and brain and psychological science as it relates to marijuana, Dr. Pearlson spins a remarkable yarn. The book is full of illuminating and memorable human-interest detours about the rich history of marijuana-culture interactions, and a crystal-clear, easy to understand depiction of the science behind the weed’s often profound effects on psychological experience. Dr. Pearlson whacks through the thickets of can’t surrounding marijuana legalization in the US and shows us how our scientific understanding of marijuana’s biological and psychological effects should inform public policy around legalization so that it is done carefully and safely. A splendidly written, engrossing and timely book that will be of crucial interest to anyone interested in how we press forward towards safe legalization of marijuana." -- Matthew Kurtz PhD. Chair, Department of Psychology, Wesleyan University

"Expanding swiftly after over 100 years of prohibition, the legalization of cannabis in the US has raised many political issues and concerns in the public. Whether you are pro-cannabis or anti-cannabis, you need to read Weed Science. In this book, Yale neuroscientist Dr. Godfrey Pearlson presents a well-written, balanced and scientifically-based approach between the full and immediate legalization of cannabis, that many in the cannabis industry support, and the anti-marijuana positions of groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Filled with information based on an extensive career in neuroscience, Dr. Pearlson addresses questions and concerns about cannabis that many readers have, but for which the answers are buried in the scientific literature." -- Michael Milburn PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts/Boston. (Expert on cannabis-impaired driving.)

"There is an urgent need for a scientific appraisal of exactly what effects marijuana has on the brain and the body and to make any political platforms based on scientific fact rather than on jingoistic hysteria. This is exactly what Yale neuropsychiatrist Godfrey Pearlson presents in this in-depth study of every aspect of marijuana. It is one of those rare and brilliant books where the author tackles a complex problem yet succeeds in making it an enjoyable read." -- Philip Salfield, Ph.D. Author and Clinical Psychologist.

"The! As a research psychologist focused largely on addictive behaviors, I was poised to evaluate Godfrey Pearlson’s book, Weed Science, from a purely scientific perspective. Is the book fair? Is the book honest? Does it provide a nuanced perspective? Are the gaps in our understanding made clear? I was pleased to find that the answer to all these questions was a resounding ‘yes.’ I was pleasantly surprised by the creative analogies and the personal touches to this highly informative book. In the Introduction, Dr. Pearlson likens cannabis to a "large, generally friendly dog that occasionally bites and needs to be leashed." Throughout the book, he discusses the range of harms and benefits of the drug in an even-keeled fashion. I learned something, often many things, about Cannabis from each and every chapter. Given the breadth and quality of information presented, this book has just become required reading for newcomers in my laboratory. I will never teach about estimating prevalence rates without referring to Bulgarian pig populations. I chuckled when learning about "tiny G-spots." I conclude that Dr. Pearlson is a truly rare human with broad and extensive scientific knowledge of Cannabis, and I am grateful that he expended the enormous effort to put together this book." -- Matthew R. Pearson PhD, Research Associate Professor, Center on Alcohol, Substance use, And Addictions (CASAA), University of New Mexico; Founding President, Research Society on Marijuana (RSMj)

"Dr. Pearlson is an expert in the neuroscience of cannabis and an honest purveyor of a complex science. This book provides a scientific backbone to allow readers to understand and address the most important controversies surrounding cannabis today." -- Cinnamon Bidwell PhD, Co-Director, Center for Health and Neuroscience, Genes, and Environment at the University of Colorado, Boulder

"An impressively informative and exceptionally well organized and presented contribution to our national dialogue over the use and regulation of cannabis, Weed Science: Cannabis Controversies and Challenges is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Contemporary Social Issues collections in general, and Cannabis Studies supplemental curriculum reading lists in particular". -- James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review

"Godfrey Pearlson’s Weed Science: Cannabis Controversies and Challenges is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on marijuana. Pearlson, an award-winning physician, psychiatry professor, and neuroscientist argues persuasively that the study of cannabis should be based on scientific facts rather than emotion. Authoritatively and even handedly, Weed Science examines marijuana’s botany, neuroscience, chemistry, toxicology, epidemiology, and its effects on psychology and human behavior. Pearlson’s book also serves as an important curative to journalist Alex Berenson’s shrill anti cannabis screed, Tell Your Children Weed Science should be mandatory reading for anyone who is attempting to sort marijuana fact from fiction." --Peter Maguire PhD, Author, Thai Stick, Facing Death in Cambodia, and Law and War

Ratings and Reviews