The Culture High (2014)
We have been conditioned to generalize. We hear a word that immediately conjures an image in our mind, and as a consequence of this, marijuana users tend to get a pretty bad rap. They are branded stoners and potheads, those labels carrying loads of stigmatization. Their illustrations are colored with shades of laziness, shown as drags on society and giggling idiots whose only aspirations are to snag the largest bag of Doritos. But typifying a marijuana user is about as simple as typifying an American. While the largest user base is indulging in a recreational manner, there is a growing contingent utilizing the budding plant as a medical way to achieve some form of normalcy. The Culture High recognizes the complications of this drug and its associated issues, plumbing the depths of the discussion to enlightening levels.
…while it doesn’t take much contextual excavation to determine that Harvey supports marijuana legalization, the film is more concerned with educating than petitioning your state house.
There will be plenty that dismiss The Culture High as yet another pot movie, not even having the good grace to recognize it as a documentary, effectively lumping it in with stoner comedies Half Baked and Grandma’s Boy. Nevertheless, this is so much more. It is certainly a film of, and about, marijuana, but it is not limited to its use as a recreational drug. It isn’t even a film limited simply to the actual use of marijuana. What The Culture High does is open the door to a discussion, doing its best to strip away as much of the hyperbole and posturing to present a logical and fact-rich conversation. Because while it doesn’t take much contextual excavation to determine that Harvey supports marijuana legalization, the film is more concerned with educating than petitioning your state house.
No amount of campaigning for a “Drug Free America” or looking to wage a “War on Drugs” will be able to eliminate drugs from use. This is not to paint a hopeless picture of needle strewn streets and convulsing users on every block, but to wake up and realize the sheer quantity of and industries built on drugs. For it is important to remember that regardless of any positive effects marijuana use may be connected to, at the end of the day it is still very much a drug. But what The Culture High smartly reminds us is that we go through our lives regularly using drugs with little to no forethought whatsoever. On a fairly average weekend, millions of people share alcoholic beverages, relax with cigarettes, or pop aspirin. This is of course not even mentioning the amount of prescription drugs that fill household medicine cabinets. To demonize marijuana for simply being a drug is to obliviously wander through life.
The documentary is not content to merely reveal the world’s hypocritical stance on the issue of cannabis but also seeks to demonstrate the ramifications of that position. As the film takes you further down the rabbit hole, it points out the troubling cases that litter the path downward. We step over suburban home invasions, deadly violence, criminal organizations, and sanctioned government corruption that results not from the use of marijuana, but from its prohibition. Comparisons to the United States’ own prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th century, and the subsequent rise of organized crime, is particularly appropriate, if obvious. To the film’s credit, it uses the historical context of marijuana quite effectively, placing history before commentary. As each layer of marijuana’s storied past comes drifting away, the rotten festering core that is its history of misinformation and partisanship reveals itself.
Harvey doesn’t want this to be a fight between the users and non-users, but a quest for personal freedom; revealing the nearly libertarian viewpoint that most conservatives won’t bother to pay attention to.
Harvey is careful to build his environment slowly, gently handing over information, rather than burying the audience in a deluge. Unfortunately, at times this makes the film feel nearly repetitive, approaching its actual point in a circuitous fashion that is more than long-winded. With the film spiraling downward into reiteration, the pacing suffers most. The discussion, however, is highly interesting and the information contained within, more than worthwhile. So rather than becoming bored with its presentation, the audience edges closer to frustration, pleading to get to the next morsel of truth sooner rather than later; thus, igniting a passion in the audience as a result of its slow build. Harvey doesn’t want this to be a fight between the users and non-users, but a quest for personal freedom; revealing the nearly libertarian viewpoint that most conservatives won’t bother to pay attention to.
Society is a rapidly changing thing and amid all of the hustle and bustle we often do not take the time to give issues their proper consideration. We look for quick answers and function primarily in binaries, either on or off, for or against. The Culture High pushes for a different handling of life, moving towards measured conversation rather than stubborn shouting. The film looks at marijuana from numerous viewpoints: medically, psychologically, governmentally, and socially. Its attempt to balance the discussion and illustration of the varied and emotional nature of that discussion at times leaves the film feeling a bit overloaded and repetitive. Sure, Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa fill the token well-known user role, but Harvey has even more police officers, researchers, and doctors to communicate the fact-based nature of this documentary. The Culture High is not merely some movie about pot, but a documentary that presents how this drug’s illegality has affected us as a society. It deserves to be seen by everyone and perhaps must be seen by those that ardently demonize its subject’s existence. Marijuana is here, and despite what you may have heard, that really might not be a bad thing.
The Culture High is not merely some movie about pot, but a documentary that presents how this drug’s illegality has affected us as a society. It deserves to be seen by everyone and perhaps must be seen by those that ardently demonize its subject’s existence.