Most of this book is addressed to the nonspecialist reader, although Chapter 3, "Chemistry and Pharmacology," demands some background in chemistry or medicine. It was included as part of an overall effort to provide a reasonably comprehensive view of the current state of knowledge of cannabis and its derivatives. The reader who does not have the appropriate background might skip this chapter; its omission will not significantly diminish his comprehension of the remainder of the book.
I had originally planned, also primarily for the sake of completeness, an opening chapter on the early history of cannabis. However, I soon found that because the literature contained so many contradictions, discrepancies, uncertainties, difficulties in obtaining primary sources, and statements which appeared more mythological than factual, it would be impossible to do more than contribute another largely apocryphal account. For that reason the chapter was abandoned, and those aspects of the early history which are relevant to particular topics appear in the corresponding chapters.
During the course of writing this book I incurred indebtedness to a number of people. It was Murray Chastain of Harvard University Press who encouraged me to undertake this project, and for this I am now grateful. William von Eggers Doering, Richard E. Schultes, Donald Berman, Carl Sagan, David Vigoda, and Jack R. Ewalt read parts of the manuscript and offered many invaluable criticisms and suggestions. R. David Hill and Craig Wood helped with the research, Kathleen Karant did much of the typing, and the entire manuscript benefited from the editorial skills of Kitty Dexter.