4 Binge-Worthy Cannabis Documentaries to Watch this Weekend
By: Angela Viesti
Before I made my way into the cannabis industry in 2015, I did my homework by exploring the content available to me, much of which was in the form of documentaries and books. Rewatching some of these movies now reminds me of the initial spark that propelled me to make a career change while provoking feelings of nostalgia for what feels like a different era.
Next time you turn on the TV and turn down for a Netflix binge, flip through these titles and stream a cannabis-centered documentary instead. Before you settle in, make some CBD infused popcorn using the cannabutter recipe from our blog or bust out your Bare Daily Wellness Tincture and make it garlic popcorn with this garlic butter recipe.
If you benefit from CBD or anything made from hemp, you have Jack Herer to thank. And if you’re reading this blog, that means you.
The Emperor of Hemp was an anti-antiwar veteran-turned-hemp advocate who devoted his life to being the voice leading the hemp movement, long before CBD was turning up in liquor stores and at shoe retailers (ehem, DSW). He led marches and demonstrations across the country and even opened a hemp shop on the Venice Beach boardwalk, decades before anyone called it “Silicon Beach”.
This man was a true influencer. An OG.
His grassroots efforts to spread the knowledge was his life’s mission and he is revered strongly by the cannabis community. Anything you can do to educate yourself on Jack Herer would serve you as an advocate or even enthusiast of cannabis and hemp.
In this current state of CBD-everything and mainstream cannabis, we cannot forget those who worked to make this possible and those who are still fighting the battle. Kush Queen continually honors the early advocates who dedicated their lives to liberate the plant and the people by paying homage as often as possible.
Without them, this wouldn’t be.
The 2014 documentary, The Culture High, captures a holistic, birdseye view of the legal, medical, economic, and cultural facets of cannabis while highlighting the societal norms that influence how the plant and those who use it are perceived.
Cannabis culture has pervaded despite prohibition efforts, conservative propaganda, and a legal system that threatens the freedom of those who touch the plant.
Modern-day cannabis culture is derived from the models seen in the mainstream: Snoop Dogg, Cheech, and Chong, Cypress Hill, Willie Nelson, Wiz Kalifa, Joe Rogan. These street smart, weed-loving stoners can appear edgy, even intimidating to some, but transform when called to stand up for the plant. As they come to the defense of cannabis, a genuine passion transmutes their personas and guards come down, revealing a recognizable humanity that becomes a bridge to close the gap.
In contrast, there exists a culture of hostile opponents: Big Pharma, The War on Drugs, and the government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. Propaganda becomes grounds for debate and no amount of reason or evidence to the contrary can dissuade those faithful to their baseless positions.
They insist, “There’s no research!”
We answer, “Start funding research!”
These two opposing cultures collide in The Culture High. Although the landscape of legal cannabis has changed drastically in the last five years (cue the nostalgia), this film maintains its relevance as the world begins to rethink drug policy.
Taking a compassionate stance on addiction and chronic illness, particularly as it pertains to children with epilepsy, chronically and mentally ill individuals, and survivors of trauma, Dr. Gabor Mate explains how the root cause of addiction is often unaddressed trauma from childhood, suggesting that the pursuit of an addictive substance or behavior is an attempt to alleviate pain. He concludes that jailing these wounded and vulnerable individuals causes more harmful than the drugs themselves. It’s both devastating and infuriating to see how the profits-over-people model impacts those in need of support, compassion, and humanization.
If you want to dive deeper into how deeply invested the prison system is in keeping non-violent offenders behind bars and essentially, enslaved, follow this up with 13th. This award-winning film isn’t cannabis-focused but the connections are uncanny and offer a broader view of what’s wrong with the American justice system.
In the female-produced documentary film by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, Weed the People chronicles a handful of childhood cancer journeys set in the good ol’ Prop 215 days of 2013, long before luxury weed accessories donned the pages of high fashion magazines.
Filmed in 2013 but released in 2018, Weed the People is about kids with cancer and their families desperately trying to save their babies’ lives. Willing to do whatever it takes to save their beloved children, these subjects turn to cannabis and experts in the field to help weed through the very limited data and substandard product selection.
A baby girl is diagnosed with a brain tumor, prompting her drug-free parents to seek medical cannabis in an attempt to avoid chemotherapy. A family of medical refugees abandons the midwest for California to seek a medical recommendation for cannabis to save their son. A teenage boy fights for his life while his sights remain steady on his future--graduating high school, going to college, being a normal teen.
The storyline of the film also features experts, Dr. Bonnie Goldstien who works with pediatric patients, and Mara Gordon, co-founder of Aunt Zelda, who turned to cannabis for her chronic pain. They offer guidance to the families trying to understand the nuances of cannabis therapy in the largely underground market.
The message is loud and clear: Research is needed. Research is desperately needed in the field of pediatric cancer. The impact of this film is its ability to humanize cannabis patients and shine light on how far we have to go to truly serve those in need of alternatives to conventional medicine.
The social experiment that began on January 1st, 2014, when recreational cannabis sales were legalized in Colorado, set the stage for adult use legislation across the United States and throughout the globe. The documentary film, Rolling Papers, chronicles the Denver Post’s attempt to adapt to the ever-changing journalism space by establishing a cannabis website, The Cannabist, and assigning Ricardo Baca as its editor.
As many newspapers and traditional news outlets scrambled to stay afloat, the Denver Post took a chance and created a platform to serve this new market. The pressure was on and all eyes across the country watched, waited for Colorado to either “do it right” or buckle. Baca builds a team of journalists to curate a collective voice that speaks to the novice, the “weed nerd”, and even the closeted parents, whose better judgment draws them to cannabis, despite threats, intense stigma, and criticism from Child Protective Services (CPS) and even other journalists.
The Cannabist team tackles all avenues of cannabis legalization, from uncovering a remarkably mislabeled batch of edibles to traveling to Uruguay to explore federally legal cannabis, and interviewing a mother whose son avoided a year of chemotherapy with the help of CBD-rich cannabis oil.
Rolling Papers documents the first year of recreational cannabis in America and how the sky didn’t fall when Colorado legalized weed. This movie has a lighthearted, entertaining tone and yet is informative with a touch of nostalgia for the days before legalization spread.
I hope you learn something new from watching these films and above all, I hope doing so sparks your inner advocate to come out.
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