Pollan, M. 2002. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York, NY. pg. 113-180.
When I first read the subject of the chapter, marijuana, I thought to myself, “great, we get to read all about the high experiences when using the plant”, but boy was I wrong. Pollan takes the subject and expands it into everything we need and want to know. Almost everyone knows that marijuana can give rise to a pleasant high, but I can guarantee that few people really know about the history and mechanisms of the plant.
Pollan starts his chapter off nicely by drawing attention away from the plants that are grown to sustain life, and introducing us to plants that do other, more curious things: “some heal, others rouse or calm or quiet the body’s pain…there are plants that manufacture molecules with the power to change the subjective experience of reality we call consciousness” (pg. 114). Right there. Right there is where I got hooked on the reading, when my interest increased immensely. When Pollan uses great sentences like that, I no longer question why I find his writing to be such a joy to read.
Not only do I like the sentence structure Pollan uses, but he also seems to have quite the sense of humor, which makes reading his content even better. For example, I had quite the time reading his personal experience of growing his own marijuana plants. I found myself literally laughing aloud when I came across the sentence “there they were, a couple of jolly green giants lurking behind the barn” (pg. 122). I also found good humor in the way he described doing any measure to keep the chief of police from discovering his plants. His comical aspect is another reason why I really enjoy Pollan as an author.
Pollan also brings up many interesting points about the marijuana plant and drugs plants in general. He writes that “many drug plants do confer advantages on the creatures that consume them – fiddling with one’s brain chemistry can be very useful indeed” (pg. 142). When I think drug plants, I generally think about the high that one can get; however, they have so much more purpose than that, including relieving pain, increasing concentration, enhancing endurance, and of course relieving stress and helping people sleep. I think the media has conditioned us to believe that drugs and drug plants are all bad, though in reality the truth is that their purposes serve us many benefits – people are just too brainwashed to really recognize this.
Drug plants, in that sense, really are a beautiful thing.
One concept I definitely wasn’t familiar with was the history of marijuana, and Pollan does an extraordinary job of walking readers through it. “The moment humans discovered what these molecules could do for them…the plants that made them suddenly had a brilliant new way to prosper” (pg. 145). I love how Pollan constantly questions who really controls who, plants or people. It always has my mind thoroughly thinking about it, and I can never truly answer it. In the case of marijuana, people recognized its potential, and both humans and plant prospered from such a discovery.
Something I found to be especially interesting is the mechanism behind the compound THC within marijuana works within the body. The human brain was discovered to have its own specific receptor for THC, “a type of nerve cell that THC binds to like a molecular key in a lock, causing it to activate” (pg. 153). This activation can trigger cognitive, behavioral, or physiological changes. It’s almost like we were built to interact with THC, and that to me is fascinating.
Overall, it was both fun and interesting chapter to read. Like I mentioned before, I had no idea about the history or mechanism of marijuana, just knowledge about what it does to the body. However, after reading Pollan’s chapter on the desire of intoxication, it’s much more clear to me why we crave the forbidden plant and its temptations.