Don’t let the facile title put you off: Weed the People is a smart and vitally important documentary look at medical marijuana, how it is helping real Americans right now even though it’s illegal in most states, and why Big Pharma has ignored its healing properties.
Director Abby Epstein — whose last film was 2008’s The Business of Being Born, about the unnecessary overmedicalization of childbirth in the United States — introduces us to children with aggressive cancers and the parents who are desperate to find cures for them, even if it means bending the law to do so. But cannabis treatments are no snake oil: even these kids’ oncologists agree here that medical marijuana — which in these cases isn’t smoked but consumed in very small quantities via oil-based tinctures — cannot hurt and really does seem to help. No one here is going against any doctors’ advice, and Epstein gets plenty of medical professionals to share their own frustration with the lack of proper, rigorous research into the benefits of cannabis that seem obvious, at least anecdotally. Which is, outrageously, the only evidence available now.
So parents and amateur practitioners — often ones who have experienced firsthand as adult patients the healing powers of pot — are left to do their best on their own, caught in the bind that the US government has created: by classifying marijuana as a dangerous narcotic, it has cut off an entire botanical realm from development into life-saving drugs, even though some research outside the US has demonstrated cannabis's remarkable cancer-killing properties.
But existing cancer drugs are big business. New ones based on marijuana? Why, they might be as cheap as other drugs derived from botanicals, like morphine and aspirin. Are people dying merely to protect corporate profits? That does seem to be the inescapable upshot of Weed the People.
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