Want to learn about cannabis? Here's where to start.
In the last five years, there's been a huge proliferation of cannabis documentaries (as well as cannabis blogs, just like this one). For an industry that desperately needs more honest assessment and critical focus to overcome decades of stigmatization, this couldn't have come at a better time.
In truth, I believe that our industry needs even more of a focus on educating the consumer and the general public regarding the truth about cannabis. And I say this from both angles. Too many people have been scared away from weed use, thinking of it in outmoded fashions (gateway drug, stoner mentality), as part of a multi-decade "War on Drugs." It's high time (pun intended) that these critics learn the truth about cannabis, in particular how for many people it is a form of medicine and/or therapy that allows them to deal with chronic pain or function like a normal person.
But at the same time, because of a lack of research and continuing prohibitions against studying cannabis and both its short term and long term effects, there's also a dearth of information that people can turn to and trust. Just the simple fact that most budtenders are still propagating the old indica/sativa myth goes to show we have a long way to go when it comes to education.
So with that in mind, here are The Hood Collective's picks for the best cannabis documentaries and how to watch them right now.
As far as weed documentaries go, Reincarnated, the story of Snoop Dog's transformation into Snoop Lion, covers a lot of ground that is only tangentially related to cannabis, but perhaps that is what makes it such a compelling watch. By pulling in Snoop's journey from up and coming hip-hop artist to multi-platinum superstar, including the deaths of Tupac and Nate Dogg, as well as standing trial for murder, the film serves as a compelling biography of an extremely talented artist.
It then veers into the present day (well, 2013, when the film was made) as it documents Snoop's fascination with Rastafarian culture. It culminates with Snoop's pilgrimage to Bob Marley's Rasta temple, where he leaves behind his violent past and dedicates himself to a more peaceful approach to both music and life.
5. Legend Of 420
For those looking for a lighter cannabis documentary, Legend Of 420 offers the perfect mix of humor and education (I mean just look at that poster!). It takes a look at the state of the cannabis industry (in 2017) with interviews with some recognizable cannabis stalwarts (think Tommy Chong) and unexpected celebrities (Melissa Etheridge??), while helping to dispel some of the still lingering myths about the 'evils' of marijuana.
It's fast-paced and mocking tone (I'd love to sit down with former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions for a special screening just to enjoy his expressions) makes it a fun and easy watch, while still being plenty informative. Viewers will walk away with a greater appreciation of the cannabis community and the traditions that have built up around its consumption that predate legalization.
The documentary is currently available to rent or buy on Prime Video.
4. Rolling Papers
Rolling Papers, the 2015 documentary about the initial movement that became known as "The Green Rush" offers a unique perspective on cannabis legalization in the United States. It follows Ricardo Baca, an editor with the Denver Post's new pot section, the Cannabist, as he covers the newly burgeoning weed industry in Colorado.
It's a light-heart look at the conjunction of two major stories, the rapid decline of American journalism, and the grand experiment of legal weed after nearly a century of prohibition. This is a great film to show your stereotypical anti-cannabis parents, as it won't overwhelm them with 'drug culture' and will hopefully soften their stance on consumption by helping to remove some of the fear. It might also convince you to go out and pay for your local newspaper before it's too late.
Rolling Papers is currently available to rent or buy on Prime Video.
Like its classic throwback poster, Grass offers a look at the history of cannabis in the United States. As the oldest documentary on this list, (it came out in 1999). it won't provide viewers any commentary on legalization like some of these other films. What it does give is an in depth examination of why cannabis became stigmatized in the first place, and how a lot of activists and consumers were able to gradually change those perceptions over the course of a few decades, especially from the 60's through the 80's and the height of the War on Drugs. It also features narration from one of our favorite cannabis enthusiasts, Woody Harrelson.
With plenty of humor and irony to make the informative bits easier to swallow, Grass is a fun film that is also educational. It's perfect for anyone who wants to better understand how we got to this present moment with regards to how our society views cannabis.
Grass is currently available to rent or buy on Prime Video.
2. Weed The People
The obligatory medical cannabis entry on our list, Weed The People is an excellent look at the healing powers of cannabis. In my opinion, the most important revelation in this movie for people who aren't already in the know is that the US government refuses to declassify cannabis as a Schedule I drug because there hasn't been enough research into its medical benefits, but the reason that it can't safely be studied is because it's listed as a Schedule I drug. Talk about a catch-22!
Because of its focus on children with cancer and the families that are struggling to overcome the devastating news, it's powerfully able to convey both the optimism surrounding medical cannabis and the urgent need for more state-sponsored research so we can fully understand its efficacy as a potential treatment.
Weed The People is currently available to watch on Netflix.
1. Breaking Habits
The number one film on our list of cannabis documentaries, Breaking Habits has the perfect logline: Nuns, Guns, and Cannabis. This 2019 movie relates the story of Sister Kate, a self-proclaimed nun and her quest to get her California weed farm protected under the second amendment. The best documentaries all transcend their subject matter for one simple reason: at their heart, they tell a great story. How can you not be riveted by the story of a woman posing as a nun in order to protect her livelihood from crooked (or at least uncaring) cops and anti-weed activists who won't let people make their own choices about what they put in their body?
This film will especially resonate with any of you who cling to your cannabis with a religious devotion. And for anyone looking to judge, how is it any different to addictions to coffee or alcohol?