How Weed Won The West





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Posted March 15, 2013 by

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Before watching this movie about the marijuana prohibition issue, first go watch “The Union: The Business Behind Getting High“, which will provide a good, sane, reasonable and mainstream understanding of the issue and the case against cannabis prohibition. In fact if you only watch one documentary on this issue, make it “The Union”.

Okay, here we go. First, let me get something straight: I consider this move as a kind of reductio ad absurdum for the case against the prohibition of cannabis. Meaning, I think the fact that these crazy fuckers actually make sense in a few coherent moments, serves as an indicator of the strength of the anti-prohibition argument. Seriously, some of these characters are wacky and don’t disappoint when it comes to providing comments that induce laugh out loud and dumbstruck reactions from viewers. I say that with respect though, because I also believe you will see that they (most of them) are goddamn likable and people who you, if you were honest, would want having your back and caring for you. They may not be the face of the debate that I relate to or want to represent, but they do make good points (even if somewhat obtusely) and are people we can learn from regarding compassion and our willingness to put ourselves on the line for others. And, to be fair, in amongst the more circusy bits is also a lot of good historical, scientific and political information that is well-presented and enlightening.

The focus of the documentary is on the California cannabis scene – moving between the Emerald Triangle in Northern California and the medical cannabis situation in the Los Angeles area (as of 2010 at least). The stuff up north is interesting and eye-opening in some ways, particularly when you consider the reality of who the growers are and the way the police picture and hunt them. But the stuff happening down south is more intense as it shines a small spotlight on the battle between legal CA dispensaries and the jack-booted federal police forces. You meet various characters along the way. Some are at the outer bounds of quirky, some skip over that line with glee, and some are tough to even characterize. But all of them are victims of a very aggressive police force working clearly outside the will of the people established through democratic processes. I am not even going to comment on the whole “Temple 420″ situation. I believe individuals involved with those kinds of concepts have good intentions and are clever at finding loopholes, however I believe it also serves as more of a distraction, or even ammunition for the prohibition side of the argument. However, overall, I found myself coming to the conclusion that they were correct in being incensed, feeling like their rights were violated. Because they were.

And then there are all those Alex Jones bits. I am not a conspiracy guy, and I certainly am not an Alex Jones guy when it comes to his stance on many issues – most specifically, guns. And that isn’t to say that I don’t suspect that some of his (and others’) conspiracy theories regarding marijuana prohibition is actually happening; but I need to ease into embracing a conspiracy through little steps that are based on solid facts. You can’t just come at me and say marijuana is illegal because of some sinister plot at the highest levels of government and expect me to just join your club. It isn’t that Mr. Jones doesn’t make good points. They are just so often intermingled with some more paranoia-laced statements that it is hard to wrestle what is reasonable and clearly fact from what is a very extreme hypothesis based on shaky evidence at best. If you must listen to him, focus on the private prison segments, if you don’t know that is going on, you should.

Mixed in amongst the more fringe segments are some great factoids that emerge out of historical commentary and interview segments with prominent people in the debate. Their statements can be easily fact checked (which I encourage you to do). Good stuff, reasonably and seriously presented is peppered throughout this documentary so I would call it worth watching – with the caveat that it would be better to have a more mainstream presentation under your belt already (see warning at beginning of review).

Even if somewhat ludicrous, with moments that had me cringing as someone trying to present a different side of the culture around cannabis in a post-legalization society, I do think that valid concerns and arguments are captured in this movie. You just have to be willing to not be distracted by the more “out there” atmosphere of some of the things that go down and some zany statements.




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