By Joan Eberhardt
Cannabis is at an interesting point in its own history, due in no small part to the advent of medical and recreational legal statuses in over half of the states. That, of course, was not always the case. Cannabis has been demonized in the United States for decades, but before it was illegal, well … it wasn’t. Historically speaking, cannabis has been used for millennia, including Queen Elizabeth I who used it to lessen the discomfort of menstruation. So how did we get from cannabis being used routinely by the ruler of an empire upon which the sun never set, to the current state that keeps it mostly illegal across the globe? We’ve got five documentaries, all available for free online, that should help shed some light on how we got here.
This documentary looks at medical marijuana from every possible angle, by following four chronically ill patients who use cannabis to relieve their symptoms or provide comfort. At the time the documentary was filmed, the patients worried that, due to the highly illegal nature of cannabis, that either they would find themselves in prison or without their preferred treatment.
Grass presents probably the best overall review of the history of cannabis, stopping short at the turn of the 21st century. Narrated by Woody Harrelson, this documentary is broken up by the decades of the 20th century, and provides a revealing look at the way Americans’ attitudes have changed over the course of the century.
Comedian Doug Benson is popular among the cannabis crowd, not just because he’s super funny, but also because he’s a curious, inquisitive, nonstop talker. In his 2008 documentary Super High Me, he studies the effects of cannabis on the human body over a period of 30 days.
This Canadian documentary explores the business side of, what was at the time, an illegal business operation of growing, processing, packaging and shipping cannabis across North America. This film also goes into lengthy discussion of the events that led to it becoming prohibited in the 1920s.
CNN Contributor and neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta had a fairly public change of heart on cannabis. Gupta had gone from a pro-prohibition stance, to a more nuanced opinion. In 2013 he produced a three-part documentary series titled “Weed” which aired on CNN and explored the medical side of the issue.