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 SelectionThis 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.
Genre: Post-apocalyptic/post-prohibitionMessage: 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 warehouseIn 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?”
Genre: ActionMessage: 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.”
Genre: Family dramaMessage: 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.
Set of three medicinal cannabis use character and plot sketches (Series 1) http://cannabisrising.blogspot.com/2012/11/medicinal-cannabis-use-pot-plots-series.html
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.