5 Books That Were Banned For Referencing Cannabis

Find Out Why Libraries Have Banned These Pieces of Literature

Over the last few centuries, hundreds of books have been banned from schools, shops, and libraries in the United States. These books were banned for a variety of reasons – some are banned for language or content deemed too vulgar or discriminatory for public consumption. Other reasons are downright strange – consider the fact that the Harry Potter series is still frequently banned from American schools for its depiction of witchcraft.

But did you know that cannabis has been at the center of several book bans? The taboo against cannabis was so strong, that books simply referencing the plant would inflict fear in school districts and officials.

These five books were all banned for cannabis-related reasons. Keep reading to learn the story behind each book.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Beth (@honeybee_books_)

This 1999 coming-of-age novel became a hit among young audiences and was eventually adapted into a successful film starring Emma Watson. Despite its success, author Stephen Chbosky found his story under hot water from many school boards.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower finds its teen protagonists in difficult situations, and they use substances like cannabis to cope. Of course, this alarmed teachers and school librarians.

On the ban, Chbosky said, “[the book] was banned for reasons of teenage sexuality, drug use, and alcohol. Or as kids call it, ‘going to high school.’”

Looking for Alaska


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Bibliosmia Gal (@books_with_angie)

John Green is one of recent history’s most beloved authors in the young adult genre, having written the extremely popular novels The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, both of which were turned into successful film adaptions. However, it was Green’s 2005 novel Looking for Alaska, which caused controversy for its depiction of students who use cannabis.

One Kentucky parent claimed the novel would encourage students “to experiment with pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol, and profanity.”

However, Green does not encourage or discourage cannabis use in the book – it is simply used by the characters.

Marijuana Grower’s Guide


The title of this 1974 book wouldn’t sound suspicious under today’s standards. After all, cannabis cultivation is more popular than ever.

Upon this book’s release, however, authors Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal caught plenty of flak for writing was has been called “the bible of basic cultivation.”

Even decades later, the book’s mere presence has horrified readers who oppose cannabis. In 2004, a Wyoming man complained about his library’s decision to carry the book. He compared the Marijuana Grower’s Guide to “books on bomb-making, assassination, how to make methamphetamine and child pornography.” Cue eye roll.

Go Ask Alice


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sharla Reads 🤓 (@sharlareads)

Go Ask Alice is equal parts beloved and scorned. The anonymously-published book is a collection of diary entries from a 15-year old who runs away from home during the 1960s. The teen narrator’s journey is complicated by sexual encounters and substance use – cannabis use is one of the more relatively tame actions taken.

Most readers consider Go Ask Alice to take an anti-drug stance, as the information in the book does not accurately reflect proven information about cannabis. Still, the book is a cult classic among substance users, which has allowed the book to remain shrouded in controversy.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Carrie (@carrieelleblog)

This 2004 novel shares similarities with the other stories on this list. Crank features a young protagonist whose life is changed after becoming addicted to “crank” – also known as methamphetamine.

Author Ellen Hopkins took inspiration from her own daughter’s battle with meth addiction. The story also features young characters in complicated scenarios, involving assault and teen pregnancy. Like other books on this list, the characters’ cannabis use is tame compared to the rest of the book’s content.

Crank’s subject matter was too much for some teachers and librarians to handle – thus, it was banned from schools, though it is actually taught in others.