Film Journal International: The Culture High

Film Journal International: Deeply absorbing documentary about pot legalization that also paints a dark picture of American society.

The debate over the legalization of marijuana receives pretty definitive treatment in Brett Harvey's The Culture High. One of the hot-button issues of today, despite how much certain factions want to trivialize it, the facts remain that billions of dollars are spent on our so-called "drug wars" and that arrests for mere possession of the drug number almost a million annually.

Skillfully interweaving facts, documentary footage and interviews, Harvey gives full voice to both sides on this issue, and it must be said that those agin’ it do not come off so well. An even broader picture of our country is drawn here, as Harvey inevitably focuses on such vital concerns as the power of media to devastatingly shape the war on drugs, the increasing dearth of true investigative journalism, the unending greed of pharmaceutical companies who push far more dangerous prescription drugs, the apathy of the American public even when confronted by the obvious truth, and, of course, politicians with their own eternally self-interested agendas. It will come as no surprise that presidents dating back to Nixon and including Reagan and both Bushes have demonized the use of pot, but Barack Obama—under whose administration drug-war expenditures and medical-marijuana raids have exceeded those of any other president—also comes under particularly heavy fire here for his cynical and documented flip-flopping over legalization which, in medical terms alone, could offer very real comfort and aid to millions. (On a personal note, a cousin of mine in Hawaii clearly recalls how, as he was then known, "Barry" Obama was never above hanging with her high-school friends and partaking of the weed they smoked—while never ever having any himself.)

Harvey's more insightful interviewees include Sir Richard Branson, rapper Wiz Khalifa, Cenk Uyger (of invaluable news source The Young Turks), Al Jazeera's “TechKnow” host Cara Santa Maria, and comedian Joe Rogan, who's especially moving describing the special, heartbreaking needs of his challenged little boy. But it's Snoop Dogg who is perhaps the most pithily profound of them all: "This is why I look so good, after 41 years in the game."

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