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7 Cannabis Documentaries You Should Watch

Sunday May 3, 2020

I n the past 10 years, jurisdictions the world over have shifted their policies on cannabis. A plant that was once looked upon as extremely dangerous with no medical value is now being prescribed by doctors around the globe. In 2020, it seems like the majority of people you speak to are in favor of the legalization of cannabis.

How did public and professional opinion on cannabis shift so drastically in such a short time? Part of the answer is thanks to the media, and specifically documentary filmmakers. The following influential films not only spread the truth about cannabis, but managed to win the hearts and minds of voters to create lasting change. While we’re dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and spending lots of time quarantined indoors, it’s a good time to check out some of the top cannabis documentaries.

1. CNN’s Weed

CNN’s Weed, a project first embarked upon by chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, was incredibly impactful due to its reach and its timing. Weed, which first aired in 2013, was one of very few cannabis documentaries to ever air on a primetime news network.

In Weed, Gupta tells stories of patients who changed his mind on the medical value of cannabis. The most touching story was of a young girl in Colorado, Charlotte, who was saved from Dravet Syndrome by cannabis-derived CBD treatments – Charlotte has sadly passed away recently, but her legacy will live on forever in the cannabis movement.

The year after Weed was released, Colorado legalized cannabis for recreational use. Charlotte’s story has been mentioned in the texts of CBD laws across the country. In 2018, the Farm Bill federally legalized hemp and hemp-derived CBD.

In the two years following, CNN released Weed 2 and Weed 3, extending the documentary series to 3 hours in total. The sequels look at America’s changing cannabis laws and the budding medical cannabis industry.

2. Super High Me

Created by comedian Doug Benson, 2007’s Super High Me, was released before many of the recent changes to US cannabis legislation took place. At the time, the general public largely still thought cannabis to be detrimental or even dangerous, especially when consumed every day.

Benson set out to prove them wrong in Super High Me. Following the formula of the 2004 fast-food documentary Super Size Me, he spent a “cleansing period” detoxing from any cannabis. He then consumed cannabis every day for a month. His results helped to disprove some common perceptions of cannabis, especially his improved SAT test scores during his “high” period.

3. Grass

Grass is a 1999 film which uses archival footage to illustrate cannabis’ history of illegality. The research for Grass was based on the work of respected cannabis historians like Jack Herer. First airing at the Toronto Film Festival, Grass enjoyed a wider reach than earlier media on the topic of cannabis history.

Grass was released only 3 years after California passed prop 215, the first medical cannabis law in the US. During a time of shifting public opinion on cannabis, Grass showed a wide audience that the history of cannabis illegality was driven by racism and propaganda. In doing so, the film lent credence to activist groups working hard for legalization at the turn of the millennium.

4. The Union: The Business Behind Getting High

The Union, a 2007 multi-award-winning documentary is arguably one of the most information-packed pieces written on cannabis to date. The film stars Joe Rogan and Tommy Chong and focuses on Canada’s then-illegal, multi-billion dollar cannabis industry.

The Union follows cannabis producers, police officers, criminologists, economists, doctors, politicians and pop culture figures to examine how Canada’s illegal industry is able to thrive. The film also examines the Canadian black market cannabis industry’s impact on American cannabis legislation and enforcement.

5. The Culture High

Brett Harvey, award-winning director of The Union, returned in 2014 with The Culture High, which takes an expository look at contemporary cannabis prohibition in the US. The Culture High talks to celebrities, law enforcement, activists and experts to look at their arguments and motivation for opposing the US’ current cannabis laws. It also explores the impact of the ongoing War on Drugs on the daily lives of citizens, and looks at the effort and money being poured in changing cannabis legislation.

Like The Union, The Culture High was released at international film festivals and garnered multiple awards. Its 2014 release date coincided with Colorado passing the US’ first recreational cannabis laws and gave further motivation to cannabis activists working to push further legalization.

6. Weed the People

In 2018’s Weed the People, critically acclaimed director Abby Epstein focuses on the use of cannabis as a treatment for cancer. Epstein documents the cannabis journey of several children with cancer and their families. The film shows both the miraculous successes and tragic disappointments, as well as the family’s fight against mean-spirited laws.

Epstein meets with caregivers who are pressing ahead with cannabis as a cancer treatment and features interviews with oncologists who support the use of cannabis. Weed the People offers a smart, emotional, and hopeful look at the ongoing medical cannabis debate. The 2018 documentary is one of the most recent documentaries on cannabis and features the most-up to date information of our recommendations. It serves as a reminder that the fight is not yet won, and pushes the activists of the next decade to continue the good fight.

7. Clearing the Smoke

Montana PBS’ 2011 documentary Clearing the Smoke steers clear of the social and political debate surrounding cannabis. Instead, the film centers on the value of cannabis as a medicine and the science behind its effects.

Clearing the Smoke prominently features Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a psychiatrist, Harvard professor, and lifelong medical cannabis advocate. Grinspoon is widely considered the world’s leading medical cannabis scientist, and enjoys the rare honor among scientists of having a cannabis strain named after him.

Exploring the topic via interviews with patients, doctors, advocates, and opponents, the film provides a nuanced and balanced snapshot of the state of cannabis medical science in 2011.

Cannabis Documentaries are Plentiful

There are many great documentaries out there on the topic of cannabis; too many to include them all in our recommendations. An influential documentary takes more than just a good argument and research. Storytelling is key to winning your audience over, and timing is key to making a wider-reaching difference.

Cannabis documentaries are being made more frequently in the past 15 years because the public is more receptive to their message. Many feel that federal legalization of cannabis is just around the corner. The quicker the truth can be spread to a wider audience, the faster change will come.

Have you seen a cannabis documentary that opened your eyes or changed your life? Tell us about it in the comments!

Cannabis reform has progressed substantially over the years, thanks in part to some enlightening documentaries that made it into popular culture. Check out these 7 documentaries that are worth the watch.

7 Must-See Cannabis Documentaries To Enjoy And Learn

This article was originally published on The Cannigma, and appears here with permission.

Over the past decade, there has been a wave of cannabis documentaries and docu-series, joining an already-rich history of marijuana films dedicated to educating the public on the most misunderstood, controversial, and politicized plant in the history of the world.

Our list of the seven best cannabis documentaries/docu-series will look at the medical, educational, and political sides of marijuana, so buckle up and prepare to learn a lot during your next weekend binge-watching session.

Weed the People (2018)

Director: Abby Epstein
Featuring: Mara Gordon, Tracy Ryan, Chico Ryder

The winner of the Audience Choice Award at the Nashville Film Festival, “Weed the People” looks at how medical marijuana is treating people suffering from terminal and non-terminal illness, and the pace at which cannabis is becoming legal and regulated throughout the US. Abby Epstein engages a community of people who are using cannabis, legally and illegally, to help ease pain and help fight cancer.

The film looks at subjects that would not have even considered trying cannabis if not for medical reasons. One of the more emotional scenes in the documentary focuses on Sophie Ryan, a baby girl with a brain tumor. Her parents were adamantly against marijuana until a friend was able to convince them to try it as an alternative to harmful chemotherapy.

Epstein does an excellent job of presenting enough near-miracles that should be enough to persuade all viewers that there should be more research into the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana.

The Culture High (2014)

Director: Brett Harvey
Featuring: Snoop Dogg, Joe Rogan, Wiz Khalifa

“The Culture High” begins with actual footage of a SWAT team assault on a family residence in Columbia Missouri. They stormed the home in the middle of the night in order to arrest a man on a drug charge for trace amounts of marijuana. During the arrest, we hear the man cry out as he realizes that his dog had been shot and killed by the officers in front of his family. In the end, the man was released from custody and fined $300.

That is what this film is all about, gut-wrenching stories that shock viewers and leave them asking themselves: How did we reach such a cultural low?

The film is full of interviews with cannabis advocates like Snoop Dogg, Sir Richard Branson, Joe Rogan, and Wiz Khalifa while presenting topics of judicial racism, politics, corporate conspiracy, and more.

Grass – The History of Marijuana (1999)

Director: Ron Mann
Featuring: Woody Harrelson, George Bush

As an introduction to the wide world of cannabis, “Grass – The History of Marijuana” is an excellent place to begin. Narrated by longtime cannabis activist Woody Harrelson, this documentary takes viewers on a journey to the earliest days of cannabis and its uses, before demonstrating how marijuana has been the target of propaganda intended on suppressing the facts for financial and political gain.

Informative and entertaining, Ron Mann does an excellent job directing this film and ensuring that you will not be bored through the 1h 20min runtime. One of the best parts of Grass is its soundtrack including Reefer Man by Cab Calloway, Legalize It by Peter Tosh, One Toke Over The Line by Brewer and Shipley, and other hits of cannabis culture.

Super High Me (2007)

Director: Michael Blieden
Featuring: Brian Unger, Gary Cohan, Robert Gore

Back in 2004, documentarian Morgan Spurlock wrote and directed “Super Size Me,” a film and an experiment of what happens to the human body after eating at McDonald’s for every meal, for 30 days. “Super High Me,” is a marijuana-themed takeoff on Spurlock’s documentary. Instead of Big Macs, comedian Doug Benson spends an entire 30 days ingesting copious amounts of cannabis.

This film is hilarious and a testament to the “harm” that marijuana poses, as unlike Spurlock, Benson experiences virtually no negative consequences as a result of smoking so much cannabis, other than the temporary loss of a few math skills and a few extra pounds gained.

“Super High Me” also delves into the clash between the state of California and the DEA over the contradictory federal and state laws. As California legalized cannabis for medical use, the DEA cracked down on many of the pioneering dispensaries and locked up entrepreneurs for doing what the state made legal.

Bong Appetit (2016- ) DocuSeries

Network: Viceland
Cast/Host: Abdullah Saeed

Back in 2016, the popularity of medical cannabis edibles was at an all-time high and many notable chefs were curating menus and new food and beverages infused with THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. On “Bong Appetit,” Abdullah Saeed, a Pakistani-American TV producer, host, writer, and actor, sets out to taste, drink, smoke, and experience the fruits of said chefs’ labor.

Saeed took part in some of the most over-the-top dinner parties ever imagined with dishes like fish and kimchi dumplings, lobster curry, spicy sardine spaghetti, Wagyu tartare with Caviar and gold leaf, avocado chocolate mousse, and more, all infused and medicated with some of the best marijuana on the market.

In season 1, episode 8, Saeed visits worldwide sensation “Nonna Marijuana,” who was one of the first people to treat patients with cannabis-infused medicated food. Many people cannot smoke or vape their cannabis due to respiratory issues so cannabis-medicated edibles are an excellent option.

The Legend of 420 (2017)

Director: Peter Spirer
Featuring: Shaun Attwood, W. Earl Brown, Tommy Chong

“420,” is the international code for all things cannabis. “The Legend of 420” is a comedic documentary that covers the progression of the marijuana industry and showcases some of the industry’s most innovative entrepreneurs and the products that will shape the future.

Peter Spirer’s documentary attempts to get a handle on the rapid changes for cannabis users in the US. Though the topic of legalization has been regularly covered by the media, The Legend of 420 successfully presents the state of cannabis, new legislation, and the way in which new marijuana laws are written.

The film addresses then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his new war on drugs, which was short-lived — leading up to his resignation in 2018. A lively debate ensues when Spirer gets into the relative dangers of marijuana and alcohol, with stand-up comics making hilarious anecdotes on the topic.

The Scientist: Are We Missing Something? (2015)

Director: Zach Klein
Featuring: Raphael Mechoulam, Itai Bab, William A. Devane, Mahmoud A. Elsohly

“The Scientist” follows the life of the “Godfather of THC,” Nobel Prize Nominee Raphael Mechoulam, beginning as a survivor of the Holocaust in Bulgaria through his immigration to Israel and his illustrious career as an organic chemist and professor of medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Director Zach Klein does an excellent job presenting Mechoulam’s research that led to the discovery of THC and other cannabinoids. Klein reveals the story behind the father of cannabinoid medicine and its controversial applications today.

One of the more interesting parts of the film is when Mechoulam discusses his discovery of the way that THC interacts with the largest receptor system in the human body, the endocannabinoid system. He then found that the human brain produces its very own cannabinoids – the first of which they named “anandamide” after the Sanskrit word ananda, or “bliss.”

“The Scientist” can be streamed at mechoulamthescientist.com.

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