Cannabis, marijuana, weed, grass, bud, pot, kind, reefer.
Whatever way you say it people know it. And people also have an opinion on it.
Good or bad, for or against, cannabis has an uncanny ability to draw a line in the sand and make people choose a side.
This(amongst many other reasons) drew me into making a feature-length documentary about it.
And not just cannabis itself, but the world it inhabits. Its patrons. Its patients. Its people.
My film GrassRoots explores exactly what the snappy title suggests; at its core it is a tale of grass roots activists campaigning for a change in the current laws surrounding cannabis. The majority of these people being medical patients. What is a medical patient? By definition it is a person under medical care or treatment.
But my friend, Joe Blogger, told me his friend, Amy Smallmind, took cannabis and is now schizophrenic from overdosing on it.
Amazing isn’t it; the power that the media have in changing our perception on the typical ‘stoner’. This is something I’m all too familiar with, my company technically being ‘the media’. I too must take responsibility for my actions, as my film, and what I communicate with you, my audience, will have consequences.
For me though, my message is quite simple, I’m a filmmaker making a film that delves into a controversial issue. One that most have an opinion on. But my opinion doesn’t really matter; the people in my film who consume cannabis medically for a better quality of life speak for themselves. Not my words, theirs. Their opinion, that’s what’s important. And that’s what I’m going to show you. Eventually.
At this point I feel I should briefly discuss another cannabis documentary currently being made; The Culture High (http://www.theculturehigh.com). You may have heard of it or even read some of Jason Reeds behind the scenes blogs (http://norml-uk.org/2013/10/culture-high-behind-scenes). I wish those guys all the luck in the world as I await their film with baited breath. However, I see GrassRoots as being a separate film that will explore some similar issues, namely the cannabis industry and the concept of prohibition. But, at its core it is driven by the medical patient and cannabis activist. This I feel, will set my documentary out to be unique and explore something that hasn’t really been covered (on film) by the mass UK media.
Back to the story in hand, I recently returned from a 3 week excursion to Denver, Colorado and San Francisco, California to film chapters of the documentary. My reason for being there was two-fold.
1) Clark French; medical patient, cannabis activist and one of the main focusses of the film, (http://www.elixirmedia.tv/new-feature-length-docu-produced-by-elixir/) was in California to get better access to cannabis and I wanted to document this.
2) I wanted to take a look under the hood at how 2 states regulate and operate a cannabis industry, legally I might add. What I found out was interesting to say the least.
In California it is legal to use and purchase cannabis for medicinal purposes. In Colorado it is much the same, except on January 1st 2014 when recreational sale becomes legal. This means that anyone over the age of 21 can purchase it over the counter at designated dispensaries.
We went behind the scenes at dispensaries & medical marijuana centres, spoke to patients and activists, reporters and the public to see the industry at work. We also had the privilege of interviewing perhaps the most famous of all marijuana activists, the author of Proposition 215 (the Californian law that made medical marijuana legal), Dennis Peron. The overriding opinion was that it seems to work for people who need access to high quality, low-cost alternatives to big pharma meds. A reporter I spoke to in San Francisco suggested that medical marijuana alone generates between $850 million – $1.1 billion in additional taxable income per year. These are stats from 2007 and are therefore somewhat out of date! Going to the US also made me realise how much of a global issue cannabis is and how there are people across the pond (and worldwide) who are looking forward to seeing how it affects other countries. You can expect to see perspectives from people in Cannabis Industries from the US, Holland, Spain and the UK.
We plan on filming until the 4/20 gathering at Hyde Park on April 20th 2014 organised by London Cannabis Club. We plan on releasing the full documentary to the public in Winter 2014. Until then we’ve got some exciting things planned, one of these being our Christmas gift to all the people who’ve helped and supported us along the way. On Friday 20th December we’ll be premiering the first teaser trailer for ‘GrassRoots’ at the UKCSC South Christmas Party at Risc, in Reading.
Don’t worry if you can’t be there in person as it will be on YouTube for all to see straight afterwards, on Friday evening.
So keep those eyes peeled and look out for it on our Facebook page – Elixir Media Productions.
Thank you for the support so far.