On 4/20 Netflix lit up with the rest of the stoner community with a much needed and updated documentary on the history and consequences of the criminalization of cannabis.
With Fab 5 Freddy as the host, the documentary angles the story through classicly Black music genres. We get to follow the presence of pot in jazz, reggae, and hip hop. Plus, how those genres shaped weed culture.
Whether you’ve been smoking trees for years, been an advocate since college, or just found out weed isn’t all that bad, the documentary has much to teach you.
We quickly learn how the U.S. government popularized the name “marijuana” to link it to Mexican immigration and drum up opposition to the flower using racism and xenophobia.
We also learn the history of jazz, a genre that advocated for Mary Jane. Within the context of a racist government that sought to kill the spread of Black culture, progressive whites enjoying Jazz were mixing with Black and Brown communities.
Fearing this, politicians such as Harry Anslinger—a racist at heart—sought to demonize the plant that was so popular amongst POC. Through this, he (like Nixon and Reagan after him) would demonize those communities as well.
His plan was to deter whites, especially white women from mixing with those communities. Jazz artists were arrested and jailed sparking a new era of legalized slavery.
Because officials could no longer directly call POC criminals or harmful and dangerous, they instead called weed dangerous. Associating drugs with Black and Brown people made sure to keep those communities down.
The film presents the science on weed that has consistently stated that it is not dangerous or harmful. In fact, these studies go as far back as the late 1930s when weed first became federally criminalized. As a Schedule I drug, along with harder drugs, the government claims marijuana has no medicinal properties.
Similarly, reggae and hip hop artists fought the same battle as jazz artists. Artists continue the fight with heavyweights like Tosh, Bob Marley, Run DMC, Cypress Hill, and Snoop Dogg. Each advocate helps bring the unjust criminalization of marijuana use to the public consciousness.
The film presents the issue of mass incarceration due to the racist war on drugs from a humanistic perspective. There are real experts and advocates that provide the legitimacy of the information.
Also, they step aside and let the stories of the real victims of the War on Drugs come forward. For those of us who take for granted the freedom to partake in recreational use, these stories rouse a sense of urgency. The grass better be greener for everybody.
The documentary wholeheartedly seeks to promote the ongoing and seemingly imminent legalization of weed.
This is significant because much of the talk of legalization has been in small form. As a matter of fact, from local college campus activism to short YouTube videos we’ve often heard about the injustices of the war on weed. This is one of the first mainstream, long-form advocacy films we’ve ever had access to.
The doc is blunt as it makes a call for reparations and a part in the growing legal pot industry. Truthfully, it ends with hope for a brighter tomorrow where we can all spark up and chill without anxiety killing the high.
Make sure to take a peek at the trailer below.