Student Voice


February 6, 2023


Light Rain


Documentary critical of current marijuana law, shows policy absurdity

April 23, 2015

“The Union: The Business Behind Getting High,” was the first documentary produced by Adam Scorgie and directed by Brett Harvey.

It garnered a large enough following to make a second documentary, “The Culture High.” For two years Scorgie and Harvey collaborated and in 2014 “The Culture High” was released. As a whole, both films are meant to highlight the absurdities of marijuana law.

During 2012 and 2013, the Kickstarter campaign for “The Culture High” rose to $50,000 over their donation goal in 43 days, making it the most donated feature documentary on Kickstarter. “The Culture High” was officially released on the online video service Vimeo on Oct. 17, 2014. I personally waited to view the documentary until Netflix International started streaming it on March 1.

“The Culture High” begins with a police raid including screaming, a shot dog, a pipe and a small amount of cannabis. Imagine a growing blood pool and stained carpet among shadows of the night as armored police crash inside the house. The emotional appeal of the opening scene hooks the viewer and effectively sets the tone of the film’s goal.

The film’s major strong point was its variety, quality and quantity of guests. Experts, doctors, authors, academics, former narcotics officers and drug czars contrast with musical artists, comedians and authors. Strong opinions were put on the record clearly by every type of guest. The entire documentary is quotable for useful information.

Howard Bloom, an author, had the best quotes in the documentary. When viewing, pay close attention to his comments. He gets into the broader relationships of innate universal human qualities.

For example, when Cenk Uygur, host of “The Young Turks” online news show, splashes on the screen the documentary turns from mostly cannabis to mostly political. Even then, most of his comments still pertained to combating current cannabis law, among all other issues. Uygur is the most well-rounded guest, speaking on many issues throughout the film.

Joe Rogan, a comedian, podcast host, Tenth Planet Jiu Jitsu black belt, and cannabis advocator who often has explosive on-mic comments, had the most memorable quote in the documentary.

“The only way marijuana can kill you is if you take 25 pounds of it, throw it out of a CIA drug plane and it hits you in the head,” Rogan said. “That’s how you die from marijuana.”
The additional commentary throughout “The Culture High” moves the story along. Scorgie’s commentary became slightly monotone and dull at times; he proved to be the only weak point of the documentary.

“The Culture High” covers the drug policy through the presidencies, starting with Richard Nixon and his administration’s purging and suppression of cannabis research. The establishment of the “gateway drug” theory was also introduced during this time. Plus, drug enforcement money–-received from congress–-increased tenfold during Nixon’s reign, according to the documentary.

Through the Reagan administration, the term “War on Drugs” was introduced. The documentary continues going through the drug policy details of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

On Obama, Stephen Downing, former Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief, said that “he’s launched the most vicious attacks on medical marijuana patients and dispensaries that pales Bush by comparison.”

The documentary brings in a wide range of political meetings with discussion between officials in power. When blatant lies about the danger of cannabis compared to other drugs like methamphetamine is heard coming from CIA intelligence officials, the absurd comments become truly astounding.

Speaking on minor drug charges, Mike Trace, former United Kingdom deputy drug czar said: “It’s easy, not dangerous, and it turns into a solved crime very quickly, with very little paperwork.”

Those already interested in cannabis law will be familiar with arguments presented in rapid fire in the first 20 minutes. However, new original information from the strong guest list will keep the educated satisfied with their spent time. This documentary is far from targeting a stoner-only audience.

“The Culture High” acts as an effective follow up to “The Union,” and uses its following to accomplish a wider objective.

Jack Haren is a journalism student with a political science minor. His free time is spent snowboarding, skateboarding, reading, writing, designing, listening, experimenting and living minimally. In the future he wishes to freelance and travel the world.