Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lights! Camera! Cannabis!

In print and on screens large and small, we the people of this planet receive a steady dose of time-tested cannabis war propaganda that runs so deep that Westernized citizens distrust plant medicines, consume pills and alcohol to excess, and believe restoring the right to choose cannabis is a fringe issue orchestrated by stoners.  On the economic front, Washington drug warriors are sending in their troops to slow down and disrupt a growing enterprise frontier they say doesn’t exist.

What mainstream Americans don’t know about cannabis is hurting us all, and film makers are in a unique position to help.  As Mr. Gore demonstrated with his engaging documentary on climate change, the most effective way to get the attention of the masses is with compelling entertainment that delivers the truth—inconvenient or otherwise—in a manner that gets them to see why they should care. 

In light of the burden of installed negative perceptions and associations going back generations, cannabis truths are best delivered in small doses and within the lives of authentic characters.  Woven into the fabric of a scene like a pack of smokes or a cold one, fleeting images of regular folks making therapeutic use of cannabis in the privacy of their own lives could have an enormous impact on audiences raised to turn away and just say no. 
Truth Defines Character

Throughout the world cannabis is returning to its rightful place as a garden flower remedy with a sense of humor; exotic, sexy, inexpensive, effective, safe and easily to grow.  Fortunately for film makers, the lives of prohibition-era cannabis characters are often filled with danger, conflict and contradiction.

Patients are on the front lines of the long cultural migration back to natural remedies; treating themselves, exploring formulations, sharing strains and recipes.  Sources of conflict include disapproving friends and family members who insist they want what’s best for the patient, church, social and community groups that support the war on cannabis, disreputable suppliers, 'drug free' environments, legal entanglements, drug war invasions, and healthcare provider threats and actions, including refusal of treatment and transplant denials.

Medicinal Growers:  Seed masters and master growers of medicinal grade cannabis are a special breed of pioneer.  Their passion to explore and share is changing the face of healthcare one strain at a time.  Guys love hobbies and competitive sports, and this male-dominated field boasts a colorful cast of braggarts, botanists, tinkerers, black marketers and patients—all working to cultivate, share and sell some of the finest green the world has ever known.  Get a group of growers in a room and invariably the conversation will get around to how much they love their ‘girls’ and the work they do.  Grower conflicts are similar to patients, with added concerns of flood, fire, power outages, mites, nutrient mix, sales, and home invasions by pot robbers.

Partiers:  Ancient Egyptian wall carvings of wild, drug-infused festivals remind us that young men and women have always enjoyed a good party.  Cannabis festivals are filled with young folks smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and toking a lot of weed.  Edibles and tinctures are making the scene as well.  Partiers use cannabis in the same way they consume legal drugs; typically in groups, and often to excess.  A central conflict in their lives is that their choices are often at odds with the new age traditions they claim to embrace.

Closet tokers are well-hidden, well-off cannabis aficionados who love great weed and devote a good deal of their free time to pursuing and enjoying medicinal grade strains.  These mature cannabis fans—from stiletto stoners to senior bakers—are very good at keeping their interests a secret.  Since cannabis use is all but legal in their upscale surroundings, conflicts stem from workplace, family and social expectations.  In New England, weed is viewed as a slacker drug of the lesser classes—fine for prep school, but if you’re a fifty-something professional with teens in the house, you’re up in the master bathroom blowing hits into a damp towel while your wife is downstairs greeting guests and pointing them to the bar. 
Enterprisers from all walks of life are finding steady income and creating new ventures in the cannabis trades; care givers, scientists, growers, educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, publishers…Conflicts stem from the risky realities of quasi-legal environments, new age need/hate relationships with money, stoned, unreliable workers, skittish investors, and disapproving friends and family.

Scene Selection
This is a passive aggressive approach to advocacy designed to deliver the truth in a way that is as subtle and crafty as drug war propaganda itself.  That means not every film will work, and the truth must occur in a flash and leave a lasting impression, like a wink from Marilyn, a Bette Davis pose.   To illustrate, here are some favorite films with a dash of cannabis truth.

The Shootist (1976)
Genre: Western

Message: Cannabis tincture was a popular and valued medicine in the 1800s.
Means:  In the wonderful You’ve got a cancer scene between the country doctor (Jimmy Stewart) and his dying patient (John Wayne), the doctor hands over the opium tincture (laudanum), and one other corked medicine bottle.  The cannabis tincture, he explains, will help a lot with sleep before the pain gets too bad.

The Beach (2000)
Genre: Adventure

Message: Cannabis is safe and serious medicine that individuals and intentional communities can make for themselves.
Means: As Sal guides the newest arrivals through the resort for people who hate resorts, she points to a device simmering with emerald green liquid.  A medicine maker is filling a cobalt dropper vial from a tiny brass spigot. 

Sal says, “Of course we make all our own medicines like cannabis oil, salves and this tincture…edibles too if you like...”
Later, during the tooth extraction scene, the patient is given a shot of scotch turned green with a squirt from the cobalt dropper vial.

Firefly (Joss Whedon’s single-season marvel; 2002)

Genre: Post-apocalyptic/post-prohibition
Message: Cannabis is medicine and prohibition is a war that will end.

Means: Introduce cannabis tincture as the medicinal treasure that it is.
Episode:  The Message

Scene:  The postal warehouse
In a brief delay while an attendant fetches the boxed body, the postal officer shows off a hot item he’s hoping Mac will take off his hands.  It’s a black metal suitcase.  Inside, protected by foam are rows of large cobalt blue dropper bottles.  The labels are English: Cannabis Tincture.  Mac is impressed. Jayne looks confused as the postal worker explains

“This is prohibition era tincture made on earth during the Cannabis Wars—around the turn of the 21st Century.. Very rare.  Probably still fine as medicine but worth more in the bottle.”
Mac nods; “Nice find but no thanks, we don’t meet up with too many collectors or museum types.”

As the black case is closed up and the body box arrives, Jayne still looks confused:
“Hold on a sec; cannabis was illegal?”

Kill Bill: Vol 2 (2004)

Genre: Action
Message: Cannabis tincture is liquid weed.

Means: In the fabulous trailer scene, Elle is watching from the couch as Budd blends a killer smoothie and slops it into a pair of jar glasses.  Now imagine that he reaches up into the cabinet for a tinted dropper vial.  He gives his jar two squirts and a swirl. 
Elle squints her eye at the deep green tint; “What was that shit?”

Budd shrugs; “It's cannabis tincture, liquid weed...takes the edge off...and you know, sometimes it makes me smile...”
She takes a long drag on her cigarette; “Yeah?  No thanks.”

The Descendants (2011)

Genre: Family drama
Message: The cannabis trades offer income and opportunity for struggling building contractors.

Means: In the scene introducing the cast of descendants, the narrator describes one as being an unemployed carpenter planning to use his share of the proceeds to move his family to a cannabis legal state where he plans to set himself up as a grow-room builder.

Let the Re-enculturation Begin!
Cannabis prohibition continues to be a supremely effective war of words and images, and the best defense against those dark arts is an equally crafty film response that doesn’t make waves before it gets to the theater; subtle medicinal tells, authentic patients treating themselves for common ailments, and broke-down Americans crawling out of the recession by way of the cannabis trades.  The battle to restore the right to choose and responsibly use cannabis is at the pain center of an arc that will play out like all modern freedom revolutions do; as the truth comes out, it gets on film, and the walls come down.

Related Articles: Cannabis in times of crisis

Carl Hedberg is a writer, speaker and cannabis use explorer.  The plan is to help film makers deliver historical and medicinal truths to mass audiences by way of big screen movies.  Twitter questions and comments @cannabisrising or visit Carl on Facebook (thefinestgreen).  This piece was adapted from earlier blogs.


  1. I think cannabis growing is the best option for indoor weed, We have to grow indoor weed because our earth is in problem and to save our earth this is the best option that we grow weed indoor and make our home more attractive by indoor weed.

  2. You're right! Also, growing indoor prevents cross pollination with other local grows. One day the world will grow medicinal cannabis in greenhouses and cannabis hemp in fields stretching as far as the eye can see.

  3. Nice you've captured the attention of the viewer's and appealing plans, great. Try to buy herbal incense wholesale.

  4. Great info for a resident of a different state who was hoping for a ray of hope. Now it appears as though the dream of legal cannabis or spice incense is going the way of everything else-corporate. Marketing rules the day. Not so long ago, marketers worked hard to get exposure to hopefully convince you of the virtues of their product. Today the big players enjoy pervasive exposure and can concentrate on fine tuning the profit machine by giving the least product possible for whatever the market brings. Big bands play and confetti is sprayed to dazzle you stupid so they can steal from your wallet, usually on a recurring draw from your bank account.
    I intend to watch the "legalization" story unfold, but hold no idealistic hope for anything positive.
    At the end of the day, the issue will be decided by law enforcement, which is influenced judicially and legislatively by those with money. It won't be decided by compassion, nor common sense, nor freedom.

  5. Cannabis sativa used to be commonplace in the US - and can be again - lots of activism in place from grassroots to US Presidential candidates - and they are now working to get a petition to Obama - anyone can sign - it's up at
    Also check out for more info and events!

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  7. After i start smoking marijuana, i feel so good. I start eating better!