Hempirical Evidence is the online research journal of Nick Johnson, writer, historian and author of the book Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West (Oregon State University Press, 2017). My work is also featured in The Cannabist (Denver Post), Agricultural History, Colorado Heritage, the Colorado Encyclopedia, the Public Lands History Center, and Erstwhile.

On this blog you'll find short essays based on my ongoing research, book reviews, and commentary on current cannabis-related issues and events. The purpose of this blog is simply to present research and thoughtful opinions with the hope of encouraging intelligent, honest, and productive dialogue about cannabis and its place in world history and society.


In the fall of 2012, two years after graduating from Southern Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in journalism, I came to Fort Collins, Colorado to get my MA in history at Colorado State University. That November, I witnessed the passage of Amendment 64, the ballot initiative that legalized the adult use of cannabis statewide. I was looking for something to write about for my master's thesis, and soon found that behind this momentous change in drug policy was a millennia-old relationship between a useful plant and its human propagators.

I hitched my growing fascination with the cannabis plant to a newfound passion for environmental history and completed my master's thesis, "Rocky Mountain High," in the spring of 2014. I argued that studying cannabis as a plant as well as a drug can allow us to better understand its various roles in American culture and society.

Grass Roots is a further exploration of the plant's historical and current impact on American society via the environment. The book examines cannabis' past through an agricultural lens in order to explain, critically engage, and offer possible solutions to the environmental challenges associated with the rise of America's newest legitimate cash crop.

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