Cannabis isn’t just great for recreational and medicinal purposes: it’s a great subject for a lot of historical, political and philosophical debates and discussion. In other words, cannabis is one of the most fascinating plants to research and learn about, making it the perfect subject for documentaries.
If you love documentaries as much as what I do, and you’re intrigued by the history and politics around this magical plant, take a look at the following must-watch cannabis-related documentaries.
Grab a joint, get some snacks ready and wait to have your mind blown by the beauty and controversy of marijuana.
Sanjay Gupta, 2013
Weed was directed by Dr Sanjay Gupta, who was the CNN’s chief medical correspondent. Prior to filming Weed and its successive films, he strongly opposed the use of marijuana. His research has now led him to believe that marijuana doesn’t actually pose any major health risks.
The documentary looks at how marijuana came to be prohibited in the USA in the mid-1930s. Prior to the prohibition, cannabis was a recognized and widely-used form of medication that was frequently used to treat ailments. But with the aid of anti-stoner propaganda, politician Harry Anslinger managed to change societal perceptions of the drug – and then the laws that surround it. The stigma created by these campaigns lives on today, and is still used to justify the USA’s ‘War on Drugs’.
Gupta takes a thought-provoking look at present-day Colorado, which is one of the few states in the world where recreational use of marijuana is legalized. He examines both the science and the politics behind marijuana usage in present-day USA.
If you enjoy this documentary, you might want to check out the next two in the series: Weed 2 and Weed 3.
2. Clearing the Smoke: The Science of Cannabis
Anna Rau, 2011
As the title suggests, this documentary takes an in-depth look at the science behind marijuana’s healing and medicinal properties. It reveals the healing effects cannabis can have on pain, aches and nausea and how it could be used to treat glaucoma, epilepsy and even cancer. Using a number of interviews with patients and medical health practitioners, the documentary cleverly explores the benefits and limits of cannabis as a treatment.
3. Super High Me
Michael Blieden, 2007
Remember Super Size Me, the documentary in which Morgan Spurlock ate fast food non-stop for 30 days to see how it would affect his body? Well, as the name of this documentary suggests, it’s the same deal – but with weed.
After a 30-day weed-free detox, comedian Doug Benson smokes marijuana constantly for a month. More entertaining than investigative, this documentary follows Benson around as he explores the USA’s pot culture and explores questions around legalization.
4. The Union: The Business Behind Getting High
Brett Harvey, 2007
This fascinating and informative documentary argues for the legalization of cannabis by looking at the myriad of industries it could benefit. It explores the well-documented medical benefits of cannabis, as well as the benefits of hemp in the paper and textile industries.
What’s interesting about this documentary is that it traces the product – and the money it makes – from the grower all the way to the consumer, showing how criminalization benefits both law enforcement and certain members of the marijuana industry. It reveals a great deal about the economics and politics behind weed.
5. The Culture High
Brett Harvey, 2014
The sequel to The Union: The Business Behind Getting High is arguably more intriguing. This feature-length documentary film explores how the USA’s ‘War On Drugs’ has affected the marijuana industry and consumers. More than that, it reveals why many industries actually benefit from the criminalization of marijuana.
Harvey shows why criminalization is supported by drug dealers as well as law enforcement. He also explores how private prisons profit from the incarceration of people who deal marijuana, and how the pharmaceutical industry will face competition if marijuana is fully legalized. In short, this documentary shows us how many industries benefit from criminalization, making legalization seem not-so-inevitable after all.
The Culture High won Best Documentary at the 2015 AMPIA Awards, where it also was nominated for Best Screenwriter Non-Fiction, Best Overall Sound and Best Narrator. Additionally, The Culture High was nominated for Best Feature Length Documentary Program, Best Cinematography in a Documentary Program or Series, and Best Picture Editing in a Documentary Program or Series at the 2015 Leo Awards.
Whether you enjoy them alone or with friends, these absorbing and fascinating documentaries are bound to be as informative as they are entertaining. Have you watched any good cannabis-related doccies lately? Let us know if you have any recommendations!