This Week’s Netflix Pick: Documentary ‘The Culture High’ goes beyond the question of legalization

At the end of last month, thousands of people stood in line at the nation’s capital to receive free cannabis seeds from the D.C. Cannabis Campaign headquarters. Roughly 25,000 seeds were given out over the two-day event. The legalization of marijuana in America has become a complex and pressing issue that has left the national government with a federally mandated law which individual states such as Colorado and Washington widely break every day. From the makers of “The Union: The Business Behind Getting High,” comes “The Culture High,” a documentary on the legalization of marijuana in America and what the very prohibition says about our society today.

Directed by Brett Harvey and just recently added to Netflix streaming but actually released in late October of last year, “The Culture High” offers up to date coverage on the issue including Alaska’s recent legalization, various breaking studies from neuropsychologists and a fascinating insight into the different reasons behind society’s incrimination of marijuana, reaching into the mindset behind the war on drugs.

The documentary is focused on a series of interviews with doctors, specialists, officers, patients, artists, judges and other commenters involved with the issue. The resulting conversation addressed many of the versatile aspects of marijuana use and was stringed together with news casts, anti-pot commercials, scientific studies on the effects of marijuana, corresponding graphs and recent events relating to the legalization of marijuana in America and to the war on drugs around the world.

“Not your stereotypical film about how great getting high is, “The Culture High” discussed the marijuana industry and had many legitimate arguments in favor of its legalization and use,” second-year Gabriella Frankhouser said in an email interview. “I think the most notable aspect of this documentary was the varied themes it incorporated – the very flawed U.S. prison system, big pharma, corporation power, historical influence, et cetera. I highly recommend it to anyone.”

“The Culture High” opens with a disturbing video account of a 2010 drug raid in which police forces busted into a Missouri home and impulsively shot at the family dog, all to find a grinder, pipe and a small amount of cannabis. Jonathan E. Whitworth, owner of the house, pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia and accepted a fine of $300. In other cases, subjects of drug raids were not so lucky in avoiding jail time.

The film provides a quote from William Taft that captures a theme running through the documentary, “We live in a stage of politics, where legislators seem to regard the passage of laws as much more important than the results of their enforcement.” “The Culture High” presents surprising facts such as the establishment of asset seizures for drug arrests and the astonishing number of deaths from cigarettes.

The film reveals the result of a survey showing that 80 percent of drug users are solely using cannabis which leads to the notion that, with the legalization of marijuana, the massive police forces and billions of dollars that go into the war against drugs every year would no longer be justified, leaving officers jobless and the U.S. at a loss for how to morally fight against the truly harmful drug cartels in neighboring countries such as Mexico.

The film also offers some concepts to consider including the point that cannabis, like any other drug (illegal or not), is not right for everyone, and provoking society to turn instead to the question of whether it is right to restrict the use of this plant for every person on the planet. Addressing the question of potential addicting qualities in the plant, addiction specialist Gabor Mate states in the film that all addictions are individual cases and points out that coffee, cigarettes and alcohol, all drugs, are highly addicting.

“As with every documentary probably ever (but especially pot ones), it was a bit biased and rather strawman-y in its presentation of the opposing side of the argument, oversimplifying it and picking out the easy targets while kind of skirting some more difficult issues, such as marijuana and its possible role as a gateway drug,” thesis student Taylor Barton said. “It wasn’t nearly as biased as some pro-potpaganda though, and at least made some effort to tell both sides of the story.”

The film delves into the medical benefits of cannabis, explaining the body’s endocannabinoid system, and also discusses the epidemic of deaths caused by prescription drugs, biased news coverage depicting cannabis as public enemy number one, and the extensive issue of private prisons reaping financial benefits from the number of prisoners arrested for possession of marijuana.

“The most informative angle that the documentary took (for me) was its examination of the powers at play which have vested interest in keeping pot illegal,” Barton said. “These ‘powers’ are often alluded to, but this documentary actually took the time to tease them out a little bit. I was especially motivated by its arguments against privatized prisons and how much of a factor they are in keeping pot illegal.”

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