Previously posted on AskGrowers
“50 years of criminalization. It came out of the whole idea that we don’t care for each other anymore. It’s every man for himself. We were always like that. The question is: can we go back to caring about each other?” (introduction of The Culture High, 2014)
Part of the process of becoming a conscious stoner is to be aware of how the 2010s was a decade of enormous victories for the free marijuana movement worldwide. This is especially true in the U.S., the biggest sponsor of the war on drugs in the 20th century. To understand this victory, stoners must understand the social cost it took for us to have legal marijuana. It’s the result of the fight of millions to provide the dignity and healthcare of their loved ones. It is the triumph of the people.
In this article, you will find the ultimate guide to the top 12 informative documentaries. Together, they show the bigger picture of the complicated relationship between the U.S. and cannabis and sets the tone of the winning narrative of the decade. Culture, business, economy, medicine, criminal justice, journalism, family…
Every aspect of the impacts of marijuana on social life is approached in these documentaries. Enjoy!
Grass Is Greener (2019)
- Year: 2019
- Duration: 1h 37min
- IMDb: 7.1/10
- Director: Fab 5 Freddie
- Stars: B-Real, Steven Hager, Damian Marley, Snoop Dogg
- Where to watch: Grass is Greener on Netflix
In the 1900s, marijuana entered the U.S. market from New Orleans, Louisiana, and El Paso, Texas. Soon it became popular among the American’s black and Mexican people and started shaping America’s cultural formation, nightlife, and arts scene. At the same time, a reactionary prohibitionist movement was organized with a strategy of war and fake news against part of the American people.
Available on Netflix, Grass is Greener is a masterpiece directed by Fab 5 Freddy, about the origins of marijuana in the U.S. and the contradictions developed from there. It reveals the American history of cannabis through the history of legends like Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Snoop Dogg, and many others. It’s a celebration of the greatness of marijuana’s legacy to jazz, hip hop, and World music. Put your headphones on because music is a key element in this gorgeous watch.
The other side of marijuana’s cultural legacy, the hideous war on drugs, is well documented. It offers a sophisticated intersectional debate on the war on drugs. It discusses marijuana’s prohibition as a key component in the oppression of people of color, women, and anti-war movements throughout the 20th century. It reveals the injustices made under the name of prohibition until today, and how the ‘reefer madness’ took the U.S. by storm.
Rolling Papers (2015)
- Year: 2015
- Duration: 1h 19 min
- IMDb – 6.2/10
- Director: Mitch Dickman
- Stars: Whoopi Goldberg (archive), Ricardo Baca, Ryan Clendenin
- Where to watch: Rolling Papers on Netflix
Released in 2015, Rolling Papers is localized in one of the biggest epicenters of the current worldwide movement of change of perception and conscience regarding marijuana use. It is the first take on the legalization of recreational marijuana in the American state of Colorado, and it’s a celebration of the transformative potential of cannabis in a domestic economy.
Directed by Mitch Dickman, Rolling Papers covers The Denver Post and their innovative stance of creating a cannabis journalism section, under the leadership of Ricardo Baca. This documentary reveals how a shrinking journalism economic niche is turning its fortunes around with the force of the free marijuana movement.
It offers a broad look at the challenges and responsibilities that journalism carries regarding the cannabis niche’s integrity, quality control, and investigative efforts to guarantee the application of consumers’ rights. It also goes deep in journalists’ personal life, reflecting on polemic themes like parenting and cannabis, and the lingering preconceptions from the war on drugs propaganda.
So get your Netflix account ready, because Rolling Papers is a must-watch, and not only to cannabis enthusiasts. It shows the myriad of opportunities for cannabis businesses, products, and peripheral work that the marijuana niche is demanding in the post-war era. Also, enjoy the brilliantly edited cutscenes of marijuana strains that will make your mouth water.
Weed the People (2018)
- Year: 2018
- Duration: 1h 34 min
- IMDb – 7.1/10
- Director: Abby Epstein
- Stars: Amanda Reiman, Donald Abrams, Bonni Goldstein
- Where to watch: Weed the People on Netflix
Winner of the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary in 2018’s Nashville Film Festival, Weed the People is a documentary available on Netflix about family and cannabis.
It is a portrait of American families’ experience with childhood cancer. It reveals their struggles against the disease and the reactionary legacy of the war on drugs. It shows how the U.S. government devastated the scientific field compromised with researching the positive effects of cannabinoids for medicine, in favor of a scientific agenda compromised with the war.
Many things changed in the U.S. since the release of this documentary. In 2019, CBD for medical purposes became legal at the federal level, which gave a new life to cannabis research of oncology. Still, it is excellent in adding perspective to the contradiction of American’s prohibitionist scientific tendencies in the war on drugs era, with more progressive international studies that identified the CBD research with the cure of cancer research.
Directed by Abby Epstein, Weed the People showcases the American families’ struggles and suffering, which led to the federal legalization of medical marijuana. All of it with a very intimate and sensitive approach. It’s forever needed reminding that U.S. legal marijuana is not a gift from the government. Actually, it’s the result of the fight of millions to provide the dignity and healthcare of their loved ones. It’s a victory of the people.
The Culture High (2015)
- Year: 2015
- Duration: 2h
- IMDb – 8.2/10
- Director: Brett Harvey
- Stars: Joe Rogan, Snoop Dogg, Ronald Reagan (archive)
- Where to watch: The Culture High on Amazon
The Culture High is the spectacularly well written feature-length documentary directed by Brett Harvey in 2014. It has won Best Documentary at the 2015 AMPIA Awards, and multiple nominations for several awards in the 2015 AMPIA Awards, at the 2015 Leo Awards, and the 30th Warsaw International Film Festival.
Available on Vimeo, the introduction is strong, with one of the many acts of State brutality that plagues the countries infected with the war on drugs, and raises questions if we can go back to where we cared for each other, and to a place where the well being of the community mattered.
Starring Joe Rogan, with the presence of numerous specialists in marijuana from a neurological, psychiatric, social, and legal standpoint, The Culture High tackles the contradictions of the disinformation and hypocritical prohibitionist discourse that was mass advertised in the 20th century, demystifying the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia, addiction, lung damage, existential angst, and other aspects of human sociability.
With an emphatic display of the injustices promoted by the criminalization, the goal of this documentary is to destroy the prohibitionist discourse that legitimates violence on a global scale because of the universalization of war on drugs.
High Country: The Future of Weed (2013)
- Year: 2013
- Duration: 44 min
- IMDb – not rated
- Director: VICE Motherboard
- Where to watch: High Country: The Future of Weed on Youtube
The style and class of Vice’s journalism take the steering wheel with the 2013 short documentary High Country: The Future of Weed. It takes place after decades of discrimination and negation of marijuana’s value to the people when many U.S. states started a legalization process of marijuana that even contemplated recreational use. In that scenario, Motherboard arrives in Colorado, the first regulated, taxed, and legal cannabis market to investigate the booming growth of cannabis-related businesses.
Available on YouTube, the documentary opts to start presenting us with professional cannabis grow, and the beautiful details of a cultivation model that doesn’t waste anything of the plant during the production processes, utilizing everything from the leaves to the flowers, without any loss of cannabis value. It’s a joy to watch.
Then, it proceeds to show the booming cannabis tech companies market, the crowdsourced online databases developed to fill part of the void left by the ban on marijuana scientific research endured in the highest stages of the war on drugs, and the increasing number of the already numerous ways that cannabis can be worked on from seed to consumption, and the jobs it can create.
A documentary that will convince you that there is no telling how far the cannabis industry can go from now.
WEED – A CNN Special Report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta (2013)
- Year: 2013
- Duration: 3 parts 43 min each
- IMDb – not rated
- Director: CNN
- Stars: Sanjay Gupta
- Where to watch: WEED – A CNN Special Report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Youtube: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4
“WEED – A CNN Special Report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta”, is a full-length documentary series aired by CNN in 2013. It reflects the change of perception in the U.S. media about marijuana. The series portrays the war on drugs propaganda as a general misconception developed by the first Drug Czar in the U.S., the former Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger. It theorizes that Anslinger opportunistically turned marijuana into the #1 Public Enemy to gain political capital and increase his department’s budget.
Famous for its historically conservative ideological guidelines, CNN surprises by taking a smart and progressive approach regarding cannabis and serves as a milestone for the final stage of the victory of the legal marijuana movements in the United States of America.
Available on multiple sources on the web, it is a display of self-criticism from the American establishment. It is a critique of the poor handling of marijuana policies throughout the decades. It serves as the icing on the cake for this new world that joined the Green Rush.
- Year: 2016
- Duration: 3 seasons
- IMDb – 8.1/10
- Director: VICE media
- Stars: Krishna Andavolu, Jason Cranford, Catherine Lewis
- Where to watch: Weediquette on Viceland TV
Weediquette is an unfinished Viceland TV documentary series. Starring Krishna Andavolu, and his quest to discover the fortune of science, culture, medicine, and economics that the cannabis boom provides.
The project is not officially over, but altogether, Viceland and Krishna released 24 episodes in 2016 and 2017, touching many social aspects impacted by cannabis freedom and the end of the war on drugs. The topics are varied, and it approaches myths and facts about things like war veteran’s use of cannabis to treat PTSD. Autism treatment. Driving under the influence of marijuana. Issues on deportation. Religiosity. Parenting. Pediatric Use, and many more controversial topics.
Weediquette serves as an ode to marijuana, and its applications and has almost an encyclopedic value to the cannabis world given the high quality of information, state-of-the-art video editing and writing, and the charisma of the star Krishna Andavolu. There’s no polemic revolving around marijuana that’s left unchecked.
Super High Me
- Year: 2008
- Duration: 1h 30min
- IMDb: 6.1/10
- Director: Michael Blieden
- Stars: Brian Unger, Gary Cohan, Robert Gore
- Where to watch: Available on YouTube
If you ever heard of the Super Size Me documentary about the influence of fast food on the human body, Super High Me is exactly that but with pot. Dough Benson, a stand-up comedian, and a former stoner embarks on a quest to find out how weed influences his mind and body. So, he begins with stopping smoking for 30 days and then smoking all the weed he could find for 30 days straight. Overall, this experiment is not really scientific, and it gives you no valuable insight into what weed does to your mind and your body.
The funny thing about the experiment is that Benson’s stand-up performances seem to be much more entertaining when he is on weed. Though it is technically a documentary, it fails to provide any valuable insight or draw any conclusion. All we see is a guy getting stoned for a month, some stand-ups, and some political comments sprinkled here and there. This, however, does not mean you shouldn’t watch this movie; it is kind of fun, and you can have some good laughs watching it. Keep in mind, though, that it is not the most informative or insightful of documentaries. It has a rather limited perspective, offers no valuable information, and falls flat on delivering any message. If you want to see what smoking like there’s no tomorrow looks like – check this one out.
- Year: 1999
- Duration: 1h 07min
- IMDb: 7.2/10
- Director: Ron Mann
- Stars: Woody Harrelson, Harry J. Anslinger, George Bush
- Awards: Genie Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary
- Where to watch: Vimeo
This documentary explores the history of marijuana in the US throughout the 20th century, giving us valuable insight into what made America so fearful of marijuana and how that fear impacted society and the economy. The film talks about critical issues such as xenophobia against Mexican immigrants, who have been associated with marijuana use for decades, federal laws and strict penalties, social stigma, and all the consequences of recreational cannabis use.
This documentary is 22 years old now, and many things have changed, including the perception of marijuana in modern American society, but many issues described in this film remain relevant to this day. The main reason behind a negative attitude towards weed is propaganda, old and rusty movies such as Tell Your Children (1936) that describe weed as a drug that provokes murderous tendencies and a gateway drug that leads to serious addictions.
Grass dismantles those myths and gives us a retrospective view of society’s attitude towards marijuana. More than 20 years later, we have a slightly different picture in front of us, so we can look even deeper into the past and see what has changed and in which direction we are moving now.
- Year: 2019
- Duration: 1h 27min
- IMDb: 6.5/10
- Director: Robert Ryan
- Stars: Sister Kate
- Where to watch: iTunes
Well, now that is something you don’t see every day: a group of nuns came up with an idea of growing their own weed and selling it to people in California Valley. The documentary describes how Sister Kate, a business-savvy lady from California, came up with the idea of helping people in pain by giving them a natural and healthy remedy – cannabis. So, Sister Kate formed a group of activists and decided to sell weed in the area. The movie describes her struggles with the local anti-weed activists, the positive sides of the business, and some negative sides of it. Generally, the film portrays the nuns as the “good guys” of the story, and in most cases, you can see why.
Overall, this documentary is narrowly focused on a single group of people who just happen to sell marijuana in California, almost as if the movie was advertising their product. Well, let’s be real here, the film is a huge commercial for the Sisters of the Valley, and at times, it feels like a drama show. Did you see the Tiger King? Well, dial it down a big deal, change the tigers for weed and gun-toting rednecks for weed-selling nuns, and you’ll get the general idea of what is going on there. Some scandals, some shooting, some police raids – it feels fun and entertaining. Though the documentary is not that insightful or revealing as you might want it to be, it still is a fun plot.
A NORML Life
- Year: 2011
- Duration: 1h
- IMDb: 6.7/10
- Director: Rod Pitman
- Stars: Russ Belville, Dominic Corva, Tonya Davis
- Where to watch: Vimeo
A NORML Life is a documentary from 2011 that illustrates the situation with cannabis legalization in the US at the time of release. The movie is based on numerous interviews with people involved with cannabis in one way or another – doctors, growers, users, scientists, and so on. All of these people talk about the positive effects of marijuana. The evidence is overwhelming; from the personal accounts to the actual scientific data, everything points at the simple fact – marijuana can produce a hugely positive impact on people’s health and has almost no side effects when consumed moderately.
The movie is kind of outdated, considering how the situation has changed over the past decade, but it still offers a great deal of information and brings valuable ideas to the viewer’s mind. Once again, we have a chance to get a retrospective view of weed in our society and have a more complete picture of the direction we are moving in. Luckily, things have been changing for the better over the past decade in terms of weed legalization, and this documentary lets us see how we’ve grown since then. It is a highly informative documentary that can give you a more profound understanding of how weed works and how it can benefit us personally and socially.
The Legend of 420
- Year: 2017
- Duration: 1h 27min
- IMDb: 6.7/10
- Director: Peter Spirer
- Stars: Shaun Attwood, W. Earl Brown, Tommy Chong
- Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
The Legend of 420 is not one of those serious cannabis documentaries talking about the old suit and tie politicians plotting to keep cannabis banned because of their connections with the pharma giants who don’t want people to get healthy remedies for their ills. The Legend of 420 is a fun movie that tackles serious matters with a cheery disposition. What makes this movie great is its emphasis on the strengths of the cannabis community, its traditions, its values, and the reasons why they smoke weed. These are all adults who choose to smoke weed for health or recreational reasons, which is totally fine.
Well, this weed documentary might not be the most informative on our list, but it surely has its merits. It pushes the emotional buttons, making the viewers laugh with the characters and feel for them as they have fun and try to promote their culture. At times, though, the movie feels like one huge commercial for different weed growers, but it is not a problem if you choose not to focus on it. This is a lighthearted movie that makes you feel good, so it is totally recommended if you want to see that industry and the whole topic from a more human perspective.
Now, in possession of the full reviews and synopsis of the most informative documentaries about weed, pick your order of watching. Make it based on your most significant interests and enhance your level of understanding of the cannabis world. Be conscious of the struggles, suffering, benefits, and victories the legal marijuana movement has experienced in the past decades. Enjoy our victories. Don’t be satisfied with states of oppression, ignorance. The struggle for legal marijuana isn’t over.