Real marijuana for real women

Cheri Sicard’s book, Mary Jane, the Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women, does something refreshing. It speaks to cannabis-loving ladies as intelligent grown-ups.

Graphics of stilettos and sassy female silhouettes are mercifully missing from the illustrations. Instead, Sicard presents smart and straightforward points, steering clear of “the let’s dish, girlfriend” affectation that plagues clumsier efforts to feminize traditionally male pastimes.

Mary Jane simply provides the straight dope on weed. Growing it. Smoking it. Cooking it. Living, working, and medicating with it.

This perspective has not been steeped in stoner culture. Aside from the occasional toke at a party, Sicard didn’t have much passion for marijuana until she was nearly 40 and required it for chronic nausea. That sparked her interest in the myriad health, political, and economic issues surrounding cannabis. As a result, her writing feels fresh and accessible to everyone.

A former cookbook writer, Sicard offers cannabis culinary tips and recipes throughout the book. But she also tackles complicated issues like parenting under the influence — it can give you a newfound interest in Legos, but how honest with your kids should you be? — as well as stoned sex (mind-blowing for some, anxiety-producing for others).

Sicard is a cannabis advocate, to be sure, but her zeal never obscures her honesty or ability to write critically. She talks about credible studies pointing to marijuana’s promise as a cancer treatment without declaring that cannabis is a miracle cure.

When it comes to pot, Sicard is a top chef, master gardener, capable career counselor and how-to wizard. But she also knows the value of a good source and isn’t afraid to bring in the experts when required, such as scientific researchers and educators from Oaksterdam University.

She confronts head-on the greatest fear of many parents: that cannabis use will lead to losing custody of their children. She offers advice from a Child Protective Services attorney about cultivating positive relationships with teachers and daycare workers who can vouch for your competency as a parent.

She is similarly frank about marijuana use in pregnancy. She offers studies on cannabis’s anti-nausea effects alongside possible legal consequences.

Sicard is at her straightforward best in the chapter devoted to knowing one’s legal rights. In marijuana’s current gray market state, navigating the law is complicated at best. Still, she cuts through the paranoia and nebulous legal status to give lady stoners some practical advice about police searches, detentions, traffic stops, and drug checkpoints. She offers some historical perspective on the drug war and its current fraying at the seams.

Mary Jane is at its lightest when Sicard delves into pop culture listicles detailing cannabis in entertainment. Fun fact: In 1938, your grandparents probably danced to the vintage stoner anthems “Reefer Man” or “That Cat is High.” Less fun: the lists of modern, famous pot aficionados. The fact that Miley Cyrus and Susan Sarandon like to spark up is hardly a revelation.

Sicard knows that marijuana acceptance is at a tipping point. She writes thoughtfully about how to talk to parents and grandparents about marijuana without sounding like it’s your freshman year at Humboldt State: Mind the generation gap and cultural differences. Be prepared. Educate, don’t preach. She offers simple steps to add your voice to the growing chorus of marijuana activism.

Want to win an argument about marijuana? Sicard arms the reader with useful talking points and current research. She deftly deflates myths while teaching her readers how to evaluate the credibility and importance of any study — an invaluable skill for anyone, regardless of their affection for weed.

Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women is a concise, comprehensive, and accessible read for both women and men.

It is also the rare book that succeeds both as a pleasure read and a reference guide.