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Netflix Documentary Argues that Cannabis can Save Lives

By Roland Sebestyén

How far would you go for a child who’s suffering from a very aggressive type of brain cancer? What would you do if doctors told you he roughly had eight months to live? Netflix’s critically acclaimed documentary, Weed the People is following desperate families who are running out of time and have no choice but to turn to alternative options. The new Netflix documentary follows the stories of families who have turned to medical cannabis.

“Is [cannabis] a medicine? It’s been medicine for thousands of years. It only hasn’t been medicine in [the US] for 70 years.”

During the documentary’s 97-minute running time, which is full of disturbing and infuriating quotes, this, above, takes the cake.

In the US, the use of medicinal cannabis was accepted and widely acknowledged for its benefits among doctors.

However, The Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 was a prohibition law out of fear regarding the recreational use of cannabis. Cannabis had been used as a treatment for many conditions, including neuralgia, alcoholism, opiate addiction, and even snakebite.

Although the bill aimed to prohibit any kind of non-medical usage, it also had a big impact on the medical use of the drug. Regardless of The American Medical Association’s argument about the lack of available substitutes, cannabis was removed from the United States Pharmacopeia.

In a nutshell, this is why people in the US have been denied treatment that might have had an impact on their wellbeing; treatment that might have had, in several cases, saved their lives.

Even though, in 2020, there are 33 states where medical use of cannabis is legal, the industry still has to fight against prejudice and preconception.

Weed the People was brave enough to break the stigma and ask the questions others hadn’t before.

Is cannabis an anti-cancer agent?

Sophie Ryan was just a baby when doctors diagnosed her with Optic Pathway Glioma. That is an extremely serious brain tumour that forms around the optic nerve. The tumour, in some cases, can cause blindness.

Sophie’s parents were adamant that they didn’t want her to get chemotherapy, so they were after an alternative treatment.

Her mother, Tracy Ryan, was against cannabis. However, they chose to give it a try:

“Literally 1,000 stars had to align for us to finally change our minds on cannabis. That was the only thing we just completely dismissed and refused to research because we thought it was so ridiculous.”

This is how they found Mara Gordon, the founder of Aunt Zelda’s Inc. The Ryans eventually chose to go along although they knew Ms. Gordon didn’t have medical training.

Although experts and researchers are still in the dark about cannabis as there is not enough thorough research available, some claim that cannabis’ beneficial effects are extraordinary.

Amanda Reiman, a drug policy expert, said:

“People have been using cannabis as a medicine for 5,000 years.

She continued: “THC has always been the star of the show because it’s the most psychoactive. But then research started showing that there were a lot of other cannabinoids in the plant that had as many, if not more, therapeutic effects.”

Furthermore, many researchers believe that cannabis is reducing problems with opioids and other pharmaceuticals. Opioid addiction and overdose can be a real danger during cancer treatment.

The bad news, however, is although the first evidence that cannabis may have anti-cancer activity came from the National Cancer Institute in 1974, experts claim those lines of investigation somehow disappeared.

It’s a vicious cycle that remains as long as cannabis is classed as a Schedule I drug in the US. Schedule I means research and trials are restricted by the law.

Although in 33 US states the use of medicinal cannabis is legal, in 2016 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reaffirmed its position and refused to remove Schedule I classification.

Raphael Mechoulam, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, said:

“It seems to be so important that a group at NIH published a review and said that the endocannabinoid system is involved in essentially all human diseases. The cannabis plant compounds called cannabinoids work at those receptors.”

Mark Ware, MD, Pain Medicine, and Neurology added: “When you take cannabinoid in from outside by smoking or vaporising or eating or pharmaceutical, you are somehow tinkering with that system and adjusting the way in which those nerves and muscles and communication happen.”

But somehow the attitude towards cannabis is changing too slowly. In this respect, Weed the People aims to also show the other side of the argument.

The directors were able to find the right balance. As there is still an awful lot of dark spots, it was important to display that cannabis, on its own, might not be able to treat cancer.

The movie’s most moving bits were when Sophie’s doctor called in to tell her parents that she would need chemo straight away – regardless of continuing with the cannabis treatment.

According to the end credit, fortunately, both Sophie and another child, who was given traditional and cannabis treatment, will likely be able to live a healthy life.

On the other hand, the medical cannabis documentary also shows another young child who had been given eight months to live. He was getting traditional treatment and medicinal cannabis but sadly passed away.

As long as meaningful research into the potential of medical cannabis is restricted, families, doctors, and medical experts will remain in the dark.

Netflix’s critically acclaimed documentary, Weed the People is following desperate families who are turning to alternative treatments like cannabis.

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.