documentary

The Culture High

The Culture High, 2014

The Culture High, 2014

Unfortunately I do not live near a Ben & Jerry’s store, so rather than enjoying a Brrr-ito on 4/20, I ate from a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on my couch while watching The Culture High. It seemed festive. I’m not here to spark a debate regarding the legalization of marijuana, but to critique a film which regards the legalization of marijuana. High provides two hours worth of imagery to a lot of facts I assume Americans already know, but does that make it worth seeing?

It’s evident from the beginning which side this film is on– it begins with chilling, powerful footage of a search warrant– you hear a child crying and learn that a dog was shot over the possession of drug paraphernalia. Then you see footage solely of pretty marijuana plants, and Lowes is wishing it advertised its garden center this beautifully. After this, though, we’re introduced to those vouching for legalization in the film, and they range from scientists and professors to rappers and comedians… and the credibility becomes doubtful. It doesn’t help that one of the legitimate experts is named Professor Nutt.

In fact, each person interviewed is defending legalization– we don’t hear another opinion unless news anchors or politicians are being mocked. And while this is slightly aggravating but understandable (after all, the film is already lengthy), at one point it’s lamented that in the media “people are just defending points of view” and not sharing facts. Isn’t that what 2/3 of this film is? Am I supposed to trust “Snoop” on a hot button issue? It’s particularly troubling when I thought his name was Snoop Dogg. Or Snoop Lion. Granted, the opinions from every person featured (expert or “expert”) are rational, though we’ve heard them. High reminds us that skydiving is legal in the US but not smoking pot, that several things Americans indulge in daily (alcohol, shopping, sex, gambling) are addictive but not illegal, how the war on drugs leads to violence, prescription drugs are dangerous but prescribed… You may be nodding along, but when paired with what seems to be stock footage, the film becomes comical. I found myself laughing when a comedian explains that a bad experience would weed could lead someone to thinking he’s having a heart attack but that doesn’t make weed bad. Oh, I wasn’t laughing at his story, I was laughing at the shot of a man clutching his heart with both hands through a pinstripe suit. Was that necessary? No. And neither was the image of teens drinking on a rooftop when alcoholism was being discussed. And neither was the imagery of ants when it was described how humans are “cousins of ants” and go to war if anything seems to be attacking from the outside. And so on.

The medical benefits defense isn’t mentioned until an hour in the film, and the last half hour reflects on… the internet.  It’s a film with an important message– controversial topics need to be discussed and opinions across the spectrum deserve to be heard, but High could have done this in less time, with more credible sources and material, and ideally a talking head or two from the other side. (Insert “grass is greener” joke here.)

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