Because it’s illegal, writing anything about pot in a public forum is tricky business. Even trickier is making a documentary movie about it. I imagine that director Brett Harvey and producers Michael Bobroff and Don Metz had to think that through from numerous angles during the making of “The Culture High.” But, then again, maybe not because the story is not what the title may lead you to expect.
I thought I knew what I was getting into with this Thin Line Fest feature film. I admit I was leery about investing two hours of my life in a doc that would be “preachy” from either side of the Cannabis yea-or-nay argument. I am really glad I opted to review it though, because preachy it is not. Interestingly enough, it is also not all about pot. An enlightening look at how things get done, or not done, in American culture it definitely is.
Be not misled. Marijuana is a central character in the film. But by doc’s end, I felt like marijuana was just one lens among many through which this thought-provoking story could have been told. Marijuana is a hot topic right now, some states having recently decriminalized it even at a recreational level. I think the filmmakers astutely chose Cannabis as the story’s vehicle for exactly this reason. As a result of its politically-charged, high-profile place in the media spotlight right now, we Americans collectively “feel” about marijuana. So, we hear a news byte or read a ticker across the TV screen that mentions it, and we unconsciously listen up.
“The Culture High” story told through marijuana is much older than the plant’s current drama. Rewind in history to the days of prohibition, Al Capone and bootlegging. Alcohol once held the same spotlight. Politicos were polarized, public outcry poured out from both the yeas and nays, and the bad guys raked in tons of cash. Doesn’t that sound like the Cannabis clash of today?
The eye-opening fact of the marijuana matter, like that of alcohol’s back in the day, is that real heart of the war is not right and wrong, black and white, sinner or saint. No, it all boils down to the mighty dollar. Why does American culture lock away a casual, unlucky-because-he-got-caught pot smoker but turn our heads to the millions stoked up on legally prescribed drugs every single day, people at the desk next to ours at the office, in the seat next to ours in the church pew who cannot function without their pills. Which one is the real problem? Perhaps “the problem” is not the issue at all but the billions of dollars fueling pharmaceuticals and the muscle those dollars have in the political realm?
Why is the prison system bogged down boasting maximum cell occupancy to the point that new prisons are touted to cities as positive economic drivers? Maybe you get this. It was news to me that incarceration is big business with big government money attached, especially when they’re full. According to the film, incentives to maintain high occupancy accounts for thousands of “pot criminals” mixed in with a few-in-comparison real-live bad guys like murderers. This imbalance makes the numbers, and hence the money, work.
This blog is not about my opinion. These are the issues posed in the film because the real question is why American culture treats these three, and many other cultural dilemmas, as we do. There are very real, very expensive reasons.
“The Culture High” premiers at Thin Line Fest Saturday at midnight at the Campus Theatre. It is a well done, thoroughly researched and attributed film. And it’ll definitely make you think.