The Culture High

Year: 2014
Director: Brett Harvey
Starring: Snoop Dogg, Joe Rogan, Wiz Khalifa, Sir Richard Branson
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

I am heading into uncharted territory here, writing my first documentary review. It is new territory upon which I am excited to trespass, because I strongly believe it is important to draw people’s attention to a very clever, impressive and important documentary. Unlike any other review, there are no acting performances to analyse, no filmmaking techniques to discuss and no plot structure to criticise; this is a hard-hitting, serious, factual film and it’s those facts that are all important. 

‘The Culture High’ ropes in the help of scientific experts, politicians, law enforcement officers and celebrities such as Snoop Dogg to debate the issue of cannabis prohibition across the world. The documentary of course, has a vested interest in lifting the prohibition laws, and as such presents an inevitable bias in its argument, strongly suggesting that cannabis is the be all and end all, the bee’s knees, a-ok. I’m well aware that there is evidence out there which opposes this stance, that the makers of this documentary don’t provide us with, but the evidence they do supply is incredibly strong. Besides, you can get a healthy dose of anti-pot propaganda in your daily paper, on the news, anywhere you look across the media today. The filmmakers take us on a journey to banish all the stigma attached to the use of marijuana; from addiction and health risks to crime and social issues. On each topic, an array of respectable figures argue that cannabis is far from the dangerous and destructive drug that many would have us believe, and that in actual fact, the prohibition exists only to serve the financial benefits of the government and their big money friends.

Director Brett Harvey establishes a very pro-cannabis argument throughout. Very rarely do we get the other side of the argument, but with an argument so strong, it is hard to imagine being persuaded to accept the maintenance of prohibition laws which exacerbate street crime, death, pain and suffering the world over. You only have to look at the situation in Mexico, where more people have died because of drug related crimes than Americans died in the Vietnam war; dying because of drugs and weapons which the US government supply to Mexican criminals. The health benefits of cannabis use heavily outweigh the health risks too. Nobody dies from smoking cannabis, nobody rushes to A+E because of cannabis, nobody goes out and hurts someone because they’re stoned. Long term or excessive use can, of course, be damaging. But as writer and comedian Joe Rogan states, everyday substances such as salt can be extremely harmful if you don’t use them responsibly. 

For proof of the medicinal benefits of marijuana use, look no further than the heartbreaking story of young Jayden David, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, which debilitated him with up to 500 seizures a day. Jayden was addicted to 22 forms of prescribed medication, pills which fuck up even the most hardened adults. His father, Jason, turned to medical marijuana and together he and ‘The Culture High’ speak of the improvements in his health since. If marijuana can help reduce 500 seizures a day to just a few, ween Jayden off harmful drugs and allow him to run, smile and enjoy his childhood, how can it be regarded as so damaging and illicit.

This is arguably the best documentary I have ever watched. By using very distressing and poignant stories alongside strong evidence, Brett Harvey has put together an intelligent, thought provoking and emotional documentary to inspire change. I urge you all to watch this (it’s on Netflix), and develop your own understanding and opinion on one of the biggest and most divisive issues in the USA and indeed the world. We all know there is hypocrisy, corruption and greed in the political system; this documentary stands firm in the face of it all and says “don’t tell me what to do!” 

Jakob’s rating: 8.8 out of 10
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