Legalization Nation: A provocative cannabis comic for the weed-curious
Cannabis and art often go hand-in-hand, especially in recent decades. From literature like “Grass Roots” to stoner flicks like “Pineapple Express,” pot, and our fascination with it, is the subject of countless cultural sensations. Now, weed is on the funny pages. Or sometimes, the not-so-funny, and sometimes serious pages.
Legalization Nation, the latest comic series by award-winning cartoonist Brian “Box” Brown, is a cartoon covering all things cannabis, from the black market to patients’ rights, to cannabis businesses and state laws.
It isn’t the first comic about weed. A handful of other weed-centric cartoons have popped up throughout the U.S. since recreational cannabis became legal in certain states, such as Marijuana Man. And then of course, there’s the ‘70’s superhero Captain Cannabis.
But unlike the canna-comics before it, Legalization Nation isn’t designed to tell a story or make you laugh. Though witty, its ultimate aim is to explain the complexities of cannabis law and industry through an accessible, visual medium.
“I am just a fan of non-fiction,” Brown explained. “I prefer to call them ‘documentary comics.’”
Brown said the comic was born out of his own frustration with how cannabis is handled by American institutions, including state governments, big corporations, the medical system and the media. He hopes the information in Legalization Nation will empower consumers.
“Cannabis legalization is broadly popular across the nation, but there is still so much stigma surrounding it,” Brown told GreenState. “I don’t see the patient or consumer perspective being represented in cannabis media. There is so much reporting that gives credence to sigma, focuses on the big business aspects of the sector and serves large corporations. I had to speak up.”
Each Legalization Nation comic explains a different aspect of cannabis law, history, business, or culture. It does not shy away from pointing out flaws in the system, often unpacking hotly debated issues, but importantly, remains objective enough to avoid making itself a political cartoon.
As a longtime cannabis user and medical marijuana patient, Brown has suffered the consequences of the lasting stigma surrounding cannabis in the U.S. He was arrested for possession at age 16, and recently started using cannabis medicinally in a state notorious for extremely costly medical marijuana.
“A few years back, I became a Pennsylvania medical cannabis patient and the system completely radicalized me,” Brown told GreenState. “The way legalization is playing out across the country is just endlessly appalling to someone who uses this as medicine.”
Brown has been a professional cartoonist for 15 years. His work has been granted the Eisner and Ignatz Award, and he published a nonfiction graphic novel titled “Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America” in 2019.
He said he chose to make Legalization Nation a reoccurring comic rather than a book because of the ever-changing nature of cannabis law in the U.S.
“I felt like legalization is just moving so fast that by the time I got a book on the shelves, it would be out of date. Legalization Nation allows me to observe and address issues in cannabis as they happen.”
Legalization Nation is slated to be featured on GreenState.com and in several Hearst newspapers. Check out GreenState.com weekly and follow @yourgreenstate on Instagram for the latest from Legalization Nation.
Elissa Esher is Assistant Editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.