VICE weed columnist David Bienenstock has been covering cannabis for 15 years, working as editor of High Times magazine, co-producing VICE Munchies’ Bong Appetit show and authoring the new book How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High, which features how-tos and history, plus a look into the plant’s medicinal properties. He gave us a preview in advance of his April 12 discussion with Harvard Medical School professor Lester Grinspoon at the Harvard Coop.

I like to tell people I started in the “Get in the trunk of my car and I’ll take you up to my grow room” phase and now I’m interviewing cannabis industry CEOs. I’ve seen things change a lot. The book, really, at its core is not about just marijuana etiquette, but this transformation we’re going through and how to take the best parts of underground marijuana culture and maintain them as we move into mainstream culture.

The government for almost a century said that this plant is incredibly harmful, so harmful that no one can have access to it, even though they can drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. Now we find not only is that false—well, we’ve always known—but society has started to accept that not only is marijuana much, much safer than alcohol and tobacco cigarettes, but that it’s this incredibly efficacious medicine for so many different ailments. … One of the lines in the book is “What’s gone wrong in a society that wages a war against a beneficial plant?” That’s the conversation I really want to start.

Highbrow is obviously a bit of a pun, but it’s also just the idea that we’re done with these stereotypes about who uses cannabis. I don’t have to tell you all the inaccurate stereotypes that have been used to make marijuana users the other. We’re not. We’re doctors, lawyers and also janitors, everyone from all demographics, all races, religions, all over the world.

Never roll a joint bigger than your own middle finger. The message underlying that is now there’s this idea that marijuana should be like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, and to me that’s bullshit. We will have lost something if marijuana culture is absorbed into establishment culture. … It’s all about community; it’s not about rolling the biggest joint you can.

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