On Saturday night I attended the premier screening of a new documentary called, “New Marijuana”, produced by an award winning Producer/Director and fellow New Mexican, Chris Schueler.
The irate cannabis activist in me anticipated the worst case scenario and prepared a list of questions knowing there would be a panel of experts doing Q&A after the screening. The more forgiving and balanced part of me decided to have patience, enjoy the screening and then decide what I thought. It had very few low points in my mind, and didn’t even come close to “Reefer Madness”. This was not an anti-marijuana documentary, and cannabis was not portrayed as an evil thing. It was produced to start a conversation between parents and teens about cannabis. After the screening the producer spoke with attendees and told us he discovered that teens want to know the truth about cannabis, especially since cannabis is an up and coming controversial commodity in our everyday lives as more and more states come on board with medicinal and legal adult use cannabis. New Marijuana covers the changes in marijuana and its culture over the last few decades, medical cannabis, the affect of cannabis on the teenage brain, cannabis DUI and a brief of cannabis history and laws.
My activist brain’s list of questions was only made useful for taking notes, and I didn’t really take that many. The arty aspect of the documentary was evident right away and was not lost on those of us who enjoy glorious pictures of frosty buds laden with trichomes, and indoor grows with plants as far as the eye can see. Someone did some excellent photography and surely shared a love of the bud with cannabis connoisseurs.
Much of the documentary was filmed at Mindful, a Colorado cannabis producer/dispensary. This was pretty straight forward stuff and nothing was disrespectful or portrayed as bad or good. It was generally just information regarding the growing process, edibles, concentrates and cannabis for med or rec.
The rest of the show bounced around between a few different people, their observations and research. There were not a lot of statistics thrown around randomly as in other “cannabis warning” productions. There were demos done of cannabis intoxication and field sobriety tests, and interviews with the users.
The first individual to give their perspective was a medical cannabis patient who told of her relationship with cannabis medicine. She didn’t appear to be very educated on medical cannabis, but her story was good, she got across the point that cannabis medicine was helping her immensely, she was sincere, and she was not portrayed negatively. This woman was a senior who spoke only from her experience. I liked this woman, and she spoke from her heart. It was all good.
The next person as I remember was an Albuquerque psychiatrist/Chronic Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Daniel Duhigg. I found this doctor to be very biased and I would not be the least bit surprised if he has little to no education on the Endocannabinoid system. Several remarks he made put my mind on high alert. He said cannabis really can help people with painful neuropathy, MS and arthritis, but also said “not many people get relief from pain”. He also went on about how there was no evidence that cannabis helped people with PTSD, and that it may be that PTSD patients only think they are being helped, (in so many words). I almost jumped out of my skin at that point. There was no mention of all the other conditions for which cannabis may be used as medicine. In my opinion I knew much more in my four years of self training that this man ever wanted to know. He also went on to say how teenagers could develop schizophrenia from THC, but at least added that it was more likely to happen in a child who was genetically predisposed to mental illness. I could hardly take anything he said seriously after that. He didn’t feel there was enough conclusive research yet to really call cannabis “medicine”, so I am relatively sure he never saw Granny Storm Crow’s massive collection of just about every scientific study ever done on cannabis worldwide. If there is not enough evidence to call cannabis medicine, than I am left wondering what evidence he was using for his own conclusions. He totally disregards peers studies that are leading the way with cannabis medicine and research. I only wish they had interviewed another healthcare professional with more medical cannabis knowledge and experience.
One of the film participants was a parent who felt cannabis was a gateway drug for her son who died of a heroin overdose after shifting from cannabis, to oxy and then heroin. She truly believed that cannabis was a gateway drug in her son’s case, but was speaking only from her own experience. I didn’t get the sense she was preaching or pushing any boundaries from my perspective. After the show was over, she was part of the Q&A panel and explained that because her teenage son found no dangers with cannabis, he was more ready to try other drugs when he was given the opportunity. After becoming addicted to pain killers he told her he wished he had known of the danger of addiction to oxy and if he knew he would never have tried it. I found this disheartening. After my own experience with drugs as a teenager, and speaking with my daughters about their experiences, I tend to forget there is a different drug landscape in the high schools now. Oxycontin and other painkillers were not choices any of us had. They just weren’t around.
Dr. Steven Lewis of Albuquerque also participated in this film, and he gave interesting testimony about cannabis’ effect on the brains of children, stating that the younger the age of the user, the more damage that may be done. Unlike Dr. Duhigg, he was more focused on the kids and brain development than with making comments about medical cannabis patients. I didn’t agree with all that he said, but certainly respect his insights.
Another participant in the documentary was Chris Duvall, an Associate Professor at UNM, and author of “Cannabis”. His book is part of a Botanical Series of books put out by Reaktion Books, and is about the world historical geography of the cannabis plant. I liked this man, and intend to put his book on my reading list. Chris Duvall was a soft spoken and was definitely well educated on his topic of cannabis in history all over the globe.
A few times during this production I had to look away, not because of what was being said, but because I was afraid that the film technique being used – short blasts of micro-second collaged images, strobing visual static and jumpy filming – made my eyes a little whacky and my head spin. This is the the stuff my migraines are made from. I wish film makers wouldn’t do that. Other than that, the film quality was quite good.
Because I had the opportunity to see the Q&A panel after the conclusion of the documentary, I had a little more insight into the intent of “New Marijuana”. As I mentioned earlier, this is intended to start a conversation. It isn’t an end-all piece, it isn’t bashing any form of cannabis user, but it IS a way to reach out to young people and get them talking with the adults in their lives. Not a bad thing at all. Even the producer, Chris Schueler, said at the end that there wasn’t enough time to go into any more depth on the subject of cannabis, because you could create many more films like this and still not cover it all. But I sure wish that more distinction was made about black market vs legal and medical adult use, and use of cannabis as medicine for children.
Peter St. Cyr was not a part of the film, but was asked to sit on the panel at the conclusion, as a journalist and expert on the medical cannabis program in New Mexico. Peter did us proud, folks. He was very quick to explain to the audience that he personally knows many PTSD patients who lead productive lives because they use medical cannabis instead of the harmful drugs they had been prescribed, in defiance of what Dr. Duhigg had to say. Go Peter!
New Marijuana will be distributed to schools in NM, and will air on local stations:
August 20, 6pm FOX New Mexico
August 27, 7pm on KASY My 50 TV
September 3, 7pm KRQE (CBS)
September 10, 7pm KWBQ (NM CW)
Oct 9 and Nov 6, 5am KRQE, FOX NM, KASY and KWBQ
It will also air on PBS (check local schedules)
KNME, (ABQ & SF)
KRWG Las Cruces