Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Film Review: "Weed the People"

Weed the People, the Ricki Lake–produced film about the journey parents and their children with cancer are taking with cannabis, could be the best documentary I've seen on marijuana, possibly because it's a film made by women and largely depicting women.

The film follows several children undergoing cancer therapy, who are able to stop using powerful opiate painkillers and sometimes see their tumors shrink while using cannabinoids. The intimate stories of the families are exceptionally powerful, and the film goes further to interview doctors, researchers, and activists, presenting a historical perspective on the war on marijuana that has put patients in jeopardy by the illegality of cannabis, and the roadblocks to research on its uses in the US.

One mother summed it up well when she said, "I just find it staggering to accept that with the billions of dollars spend on cancer research, that the medicine we're relying on is made is somebody's kitchen."

Gordon (right) with a patient and his mother in the film.  
Central to the film is the work of Mara Gordon of Aunt Zelda's, a California cannabis cooperative that also advances research on cannabis's medical uses at Harvard University and in Australia. Gordon and her partner have been helping pediatric cancer patients augment their cancer therapy with high-concentration cannabis oils in a hands-on fashion, and gathering data on the results. Gordon also works closely with doctors, who are depicted in the film as accepting their patients' "alternative therapy." One doctor went from skepticism to joining Aunt Zelda's advisory board after seeing the effects of cannabis on his young patient.

Dr. Bonni Goldstein, who has treated 300 children with cannabis, explains in the film that cannabinoids have anti-tumor properties in a test tube, causing apoptosis (cell death) of cancers, but there are few human studies on their effects. Dr. Donald Abrams, a UCSF oncologist, talks about the long history of cannabis in medicine.

The film interviews many of the top minds in the field, including

• Ethan Nadelmann and Amanda Reiman (Drug Policy Alliance)
• Alice O'Leary, the "first lady of medical marijuana" whose husband Bob successfully sued the government to access to his medicine in the 1970s
• Doctors Sunil Aggarwal and Raphael Mechoulam, the Israeli researcher who isolated THC from cannabis

Directed by Abby Epstein, Weed the People was the winner of the Audience Choice award at the Nashville Film Festival.

Catch a Weed the People screening or host one.

Another film, From Shock to Awe, about veterans' use of cannabis and ayahuasca to treat PTSD, is now in theaters. Host a screening of From Shock to Awe.

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