The release last year of The Culture High, an exceptional feature-length documentary that explores the history and politics behind the prohibition of cannabis and hemp, has drawn more attention to a small collection of existing, independent documentaries featuring interviews with experts from the cannabis legalization movement — as well as the prohibitionists who oppose it.
These films provide invaluable information and insight, having been spearheaded by progressive journalists, producers, and activists who believe that life would be a little better if the drug war finally ended after nearly 80 years and hundreds of billions of wasted tax dollars. With so many state ballot initiatives on the ready for 2015 and 2016, those who are least indoctrinated into the world of cannabis are the ones who actually most need to view these documentaries.
Preaching to the Converted
All patients, recreational consumers, and overall fans of the cannabis culture should learn as much as possible about the amazing herb and its medical and lifestyle enhancement potential. This includes the laws surrounding its prohibition and gradual re-legalization. However, readers can do their part for the movement by sharing links to this article or directly to the videos listed below on social media and with friends, family, and coworkers.
Do not assume that, simply because the cannabis legalization movement has, in recent years, experienced some notable victories, that the opposition to this culture is letting down its guard. Given that success has been coming from a popular vote at the state level, educating voters — especially conservative, elderly, and canna-critical citizens — is paramount to winning the hearts and minds necessary to implement legislation designed to help patients medicate with an alternative medicine like cannabis. On the recreational side, such initiatives are an effort to liberate what is, after all, simply a very stress relieving and fun weed that doesn’t result in the violence and health care epidemic of alcoholism or opiate abuse.
A Free Education
Most of these documentaries can be viewed free of charge on YouTube or with a subscription to Netflix. Hipster cord cutters will relish in the fact that they don’t need cable or satellite TV service to partake of these particularly informative films. These great examples of infotainment offer the type of education not available in public school. Sadly, the only real, albeit skewed dialog in K-12 education regarding the drug war is D.A.R.E.
Academia and higher education are only now beginning to dabble in cannabis education, be it for business or medicine. The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law recently began offering a class called “Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform.” It is one of about half a dozen institutions of higher education in the U.S. offering such a course. Professor Douglas Berman has the goal of clarifying and debunking claims on both sides of the cannabis legalization and medical use debate. He said:
“This is a serious area that is a matter of significant public policy. If we leave it to the snickers and the ha-ha’s and the people who think it’s a joke, [we] ensure that it’s not going to be regulated and reformed in a sensible way.”
In reality, all members of the cannabis culture are responsible for their own education when it comes to this plant. One can choose to chill out and remain ignorant of its details, indulging in reruns of Seinfeld while enjoying yet another evening of joints and junk TV, or they can choose to take the high road and drop some science on themselves.
As a member of the cannabis culture, one can remain ignorant of the history of cannabis prohibition and the detailed science of the burgeoning medical and recreational cannabis industry if they so choose. However, for those who truly care about the direction of cannabis reform in North America and desire an environment in which marijuana is legal for medical and recreational possession and consumption — and are willing to invest just a little time and effort — a free education awaits. Those who possess nothing more than a broadband internet connection can take advantage of most of these informative films.
The Culture High
From the producers of 2007’s The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, The Culture High, directed by Brett Harvey, is a very revealing and powerful analysis of the history, politics, and medical science of cannabis — peppered with literally hundreds of short interview snippets with cannabis-friendly celebrities like billionaire Richard Branson, rapper entrepreneur Snoop Dogg, and comedian Joe Rogan.
- Duration: 2 hours
- Year: 2014
- Source: Netflix, DVD
- Video quality: Excellent (1080p)
- Note: This is a Hollywood-level professional production with so much revelation and emotion, viewers will either be angry, sad, or immediately begin writing their senator.
The Science of Medical Cannabis
Produced by Reason.tv, the verbosely named documentary The Science of Medical Cannabis: A Conversation with Donald Abrams, M.D. is a professionally produced, excellent short interview with this famous oncologist in San Francisco. What isn’t verbose is this extremely informative video’s length, at about ten minutes.
As one can assume, Abrams focuses on the chemical makeup of cannabis and how it interacts with the body’s own endocannabinoid system. The professor and researcher also informs viewers of the political landscape surrounding medical cannabis in the United States, especially given its Schedule I status.
Abrams is a staunch advocate of the use of cannabis to treat the nausea of chemotherapy and to stimulate appetite in cancer patients and those with wasting syndromes. He is without a doubt one of the most reasonable, informed, and open minded members of the medical establishment calling for more research into the efficacy of cannabis and safe access for patients.
- Duration: 10 minutes
- Year: 2010
- Source: YouTube or Reason.com
- Video quality: Excellent (1080p)
- Note: Dr. Donald Abrams, a cancer and integrative medicine specialist at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, is one of the foremost experts on the medical efficacy of cannabis for a wide variety of conditions, specifically cancer and wasting syndromes like HIV/AIDS.
In Pot We Trust
This documentary, produced by premium cable network and HBO wannabe Showtime, examines the complex political, economic, cultural, and moral issues surrounding medical cannabis in the United States. It profiles four chronically ill patients and provides the viewpoint not only of legalization activists, doctor advocates, and pro-pot researchers, but also conservative DEA agents, anti-pot police officers, and celebrities. This film, while not quite as fun or slickly produced as Jack Herer: Emperor of Hemp, is one of the most educational documentaries cannabis consumers can watch.
- Duration: 1 hour, 28 minutes
- Year: 2007
- Source: YouTube
- Video quality: Meh (480p)
- Note: This documentary is unique in that it gives ample time to individuals and organizations that are both for and against the legalization of cannabis. The viewing experience is somewhat frustrating for those on both sides of the ideological fence, who must spend so much time watching the “enemy.”
Jack Herer: Emperor of Hemp
Jack Herer: Emperor of Hemp is an aptly titled one-hour documentary from Double J Films, narrated by actor Peter Coyote, about the world famous hemp activist and author of the book The Emperor Wears No Clothes. This is a short, detailed, very well researched film regarding the history of hemp and cannabis as both medicine, food, and fiber — as well as a biography of tireless hemp crusader Herer. Both the book and the documentary teach viewers how hemp and marijuana became prohibited in the United States in 1937 and how both have remained illegal in most parts of the country to this day.
According to IMDb, Herer “has dedicated his life to educating people about the history and many utilizations of hemp, the conspiracy against it, and ending marijuana prohibition.” In 2010, Jack Herer, considered a cult folk hero by many, died in Eugene, Oregon. His legacy, his book, and this documentary, however, all live on. Those who find themselves with a spare hour and a fresh nug of that great strain of sativa called Jack Herer will be well served by viewing this film (click here to learn about the history of this energizing cannabis strain).
- Duration: 58 minutes
- Year: 1999
- Source: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, DVD
- Video quality: Meh (480p and 4:3 aspect ratio)
- Note: This documentary is as inspiring as it is informative and educational. Jack Herer, to this day, continues to be arguably the best example of civil disobedience and conspiracy exposure to have helped push forward the hemp and cannabis legalization movements. “Herer,” according to the man himself, rhymes with “terror.”