Top 5 Cannabis Documentaries to Watch During Quarantine
If you’re anything like us, you’re starting to feel a little stir-crazy during this period of isolation. Instead of binging more brain candy (we promise we’re not judging), why not take this opportunity to unearth a little more information on our favorite subject–cannabis? These five documentaries are excellent platforms to learn about the history, cultural impact, and legal journey of this powerful, yet incredibly stigmatized plant. So kick back, relax, and nourish your mind with some enlightening insight into the rapidly evolving cannabis industry–from past injustice to future hope.
Trying to figure our if cannabis is right for you? Learn the science behind our endocannabinoid system, or how terpenes can impact your experience.
CBD Nation (2020)
Available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes – this incredible documentary features the world’s leading cannabis experts, and highlights the powerful stories of many patients who took control of their own medical journeys.
American Hemp: Amazon Prime
American Hemp, a documentary directed by Josh Hyde, follows the growth and development of a hemp food company (Evo Hemp), focusing on the day to day business side of growing, processing, and selling hemp and hemp products. Evo Hemp is successful in introducing hemp as a main food source to Americans, with their products being picked up at well-known grocery chains and participating in major trade shows. However, the industrial hemp industry isn’t an easy one to navigate, from destroyed “hot” hemp crops (a.k.a. crops which contain too much THC), to ignorance about the legality of the plant, resulting in aggravating shipping and logistical issues.
This film also chronicles Evo Hemp’s transition into the CBD industry, partnering with Alex White Plume of Oglala Lakota–the first Native American hemp farmer in the US to produce hemp extract products. This film was released in 2019, following the 2018 Farm Bill, amid the explosion of CBD products on the market. It is incredibly informative, showing the process of creating CBD and hemp products while documenting the issues hemp farmers and companies continue to face in this evolving market.
American Hemp (the Evolution Continues): Amazon Prime
This four part documentary from Josh Hyde continues in the path of American Hemp, delving further into the business side of cannabis and the future of hemp production. The first episode introduces UnCanny Wellness, a water soluble CBD producer in Boulder, Colorado. Alex Corren, the founder and owner, is intensely involved in every element of the business. The focus of this episode profiles how he created his water soluble powder and how Alex outsources and automates the process to oversee each step of the process while maintaining a tiny team of two.
This small, yet mighty business is in stark contrast to the following three episodes which focus on Oglala Lakota and its owner, Alex White Plume. Alex tells of his struggles surviving as an American Indian in South Dakota, the abuse suffered by the Native American people during their fight for civil rights, and his personal story as a pioneer in the hemp farming industry. While continuing to face generations of economic difficulties and inequity, the Lakota remain committed to growing and celebrating this plant, with the hopeful message that hemp will change the world.
This follow up to American Hemp is incredibly stirring, highlighting the many injustices placed on the American Indian people and the stark contrast between the evolving commercial cannabis industry and small, family-owned hemp farms.
Grass is Greener: Netflix
This Netflix documentary, directed by Fab 5 Freddy, hip-hop pioneer and cannabis advocate, explores the brutal history of the demonization of cannabis in America and how it was used as a political tool and device for racial oppression throughout the past decade of our history. The film begins by exploring the intersecting relationship between jazz, African-American culture, and cannabis to show how these three components influenced the creative lifestyle and production of revolutionary art for the next sixty years. Continuing with the beat poets who promoted the view that art is the product of an altered mindset and that cannabis encourages the freedom of expression, marijuana eventually became a permanent fixture within the hippie counterculture movement, resulting in continued oppression from the government and further restrictions to stop dissent and control the civil rights movement. The film asserts that this legal restriction and cultural stigma continues to hold back growth and progress within minority communities, polarizing the current legal industry.
As cannabis moves from illicit drug to mainstream craze, this film asks us to keep our eyes open to the glaring racial disparities between the small businesses within minority communities and the polished and thriving corporations honing in on the growing cannabis market.
Emperor of Hemp: Amazon Prime / YouTube
This 1999 documentary explores the life of Jack Herer, well-known cannabis activist and the author of “the official hemp bible,” The Emperor Wears No Clothes. The film, narrated by Peter Coyote, tells the story of how Jack became known as the “Emperor of Hemp,” beginning from his roots as a conservative, straight-laced army vet to head shop owner, followed by his 1984 revelation that “hemp could actually save the world” and subsequent work to end marijuana prohibition.
This film chronicles the history of the stigma of cannabis in American culture, the abundance of uses for hemp in almost every industry, and the history behind the government’s suppression of cannabis throughout the 20th Century. Jack’s crusade to bring cannabis into the mainstream was invaluable to our current climate within the hemp industry. This intimate portrait is an inspiring and thought-provoking watch. (And the production of this film will instantly take you back to 1999.)
Clearing the Smoke: The Science of Cannabis: pbs.com
This PBS special explores the role of cannabis in modern medicine through the perspective of medical marijuana patients, doctors, and skeptics. It provides in-depth information on the science of the endocannabinoid system, discusses how cannabis has been used to effectively treat many drug-resistant symptoms and illnesses, and offers insight on the roadblocks research has faced due to the controversy and legality of cannabis during the past century. This film provides a very unique perspective, presenting both sides of the issue, from the critic who believes that medical marijuana use is just “smoking dope for medication” to the proponents of the plant who have used medical marijuana to regain their health and function within their daily lives. As cannabis continues to become a part of our mainstream culture, we look forward to future conversations on what has traditionally been ruled an academic dead-end in the field of scientific research.
Extra Credit – Hemp for Victory: Youtube
This educational film, referenced in Emperor of Hemp, was produced by the USDA in 1942, encouraging farmers to grow hemp during World War II to provide needed material for the Allies. After the war, the film disappeared for years, until Jack and his team of activists brought it back into awareness. This short film provides an informative tool to help modern-day Americans rediscover hemp’s promise, shedding the stigma of past defamation and revolutionizing the production of many of our necessities in an eco-friendly and sustainable way.
Have you watched any interesting documentaries on cannabis recently? Let us know what we should watch next in the comments below!
Kick back, relax, and nourish your mind with some enlightening insight into the rapidly evolving cannabis industry–from past injustice to future hope.
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.
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.