Apple VS. Medical Marijuana

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Although apples and marijuana can be seen as two completely different plants, they also have some similarities that one is unaware of. In the book, The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan tries to convince the audience that what the majority perceive as bad, in reality is something that can actually be benefitted from. He tries to make the audience see the relationship between these plants and humans through the effects of co-evolution. Pollan refers to Johnny Appleseed, Greek history and his own personal experience throughout both chapters to support his claim of why these plants are beneficial.

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People have desires for certain things. One desire is sweetness. Pollan describes that back then the main source of sweetness came from apples. Sugar was rare which made it a luxury, so because apples were accessible and sweet they were desired. People would pick out the sweetest tasting apples and discard the bitter ones. Afterwards, they would replant the sweet ones in order to keep the sweetness circulating in their lives. Another desire Pollan mentioned was intoxication, which was basically people smoking cannabis. In the book Pollan describes his experience “it dawned on me that this was what the best gardeners of my generation had been doing all these years: they had been underground perfecting cannabis” (Pollan, 2001, 129). Similarly, people would find the best strains of cannabis and replant them. People have found ways to modify these plants, apples and marijuana, to their own liking, but little do they know the plants have also manipulated humans to doing so.

The thought of plants manipulating humans into modifying them is a bit crazy. If people look at it from the plants point of view, it kind of makes sense. When apples were brought over to America, they “couldn’t cross the Atlantic without changing its identity – a fact that encouraged generations of Americans to hear echos of their own story of this fruit” (Pollan, 2001, 12). There was nothing that could compare to what apples gave to the people in the New World. Some apples were already good and sweet which people really liked. This then leads to humans disposing the bitter apples causing the humans to continue planting more sweet apple trees. That is exactly what the apples wanted to happen to them, they wanted people to increase the production of the apple and for the humans to continue eating them. “The apple has been far more eager to do business with humans, perhaps nowhere more so than in America” (Pollan, 2001, 5). These plants convinced humans to share their power and eventually persuaded humans to be dependent on them. Thus leading to the spread of apples all over America, along with the efforts of Johnny Appleseed.

Apples and marijuana at some point were both seen in a positive light. John Chapman, who is also known as Johnny Appleseed, went to different areas in America and planted apple trees. The areas where the apple trees were planted were call orchards. Once he had planted an orchard, he would have the settlers look after and care for the orchard. Johnny Appleseed’s actions were an effort to create apple orchards in order to form a food and drink source for the settlers who were to live in that area. Without the apples “the American wilderness might have never become a home” (Pollan, 2001, 5). In other words, the areas that Appleseed was planting trees were areas where life was unsustainable. If it were not for Appleseed, people probably would have died due to starvation. Once settlers began harvesting the apples they produced hard cider. Hard cider, an alcoholic drink, was consumed by everyone, even kids. Hard cider replaced the use of water because the water during that time was unsanitary and contained diseases.

Pollan then introduces marijuana by telling the audience that cannabis is just a plant and that there are many other plants in the world that are more dangerous than this one. Marijuana is considered to be approved by some people, claiming that it does not kill a person and that it can prevent you from damaging brain cells when using it. In comparison, the practice of using cigarettes causes one to lose brain cells and damage one’s lungs leading to lung cancer. On the other hand, marijuana has a chemical that helps protect from brain cells being damaged.

Even though apples and marijuana were looked up upon, there are some negative social impacts as well. Due to the fact the apple was considered “the sweetest fruit,” hard cider was “the strongest drink” (Pollan, 2001, 21). This caused people to act differently because they were drunk. Some individuals would obtain high tolerance for alcohol from drinking the hard cider. This lead to men abusing women and their children. Another thing that occured was the prohibition, where women created an act to have alcohol banned from being sold. This then caused others to bootleg or illegally sell alcohol, eventually leading to gang violence. Alcohol also can lead to the death of an individuals. Pollan talks a lot about psychoactive plants and how they affect the brain. He also says that marijuana is considered to be on the same level as cocaine and methamphetamine. Like alcohol, “cannabis in American culture has at various times help the power to foster violence (in the 1930s) and indolence (today)” (Pollan, 2001, 140-141). If one were to be caught with marijuana they would be incarcerated, which was very common back then. Pollan was intimidated by this law that once he found out that the man who sold firewood was also a police officer, he rushed to chop down and throw out the cannabis plant he had growing behind his barn (Pollan, 2001, 123-124).

Pollan explains the positive and negative impact that apples and marijuana have had on society and humans. Both plants share similarities such as they have both experienced coevolution with humans, caused unintended consequences and can be used for religious purposes. However, there are some differences between both plants such as the way they are viewed by society, the strict regulations put on marijuana and how apples are seen as less dangerous as cannabis even though both can be turned into drugs. 

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Apple VS. Medical Marijuana. (2022, Sep 30). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from
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