Documentary Review: ‘The Legend Of 420’

Review by Jeff Myhre

This cannabis documentary starts with a fake newsreel that describes Hitler as losing interest in WWII in 1945 after celebrating his birthday on April 20 (4/20) with marijuana. It ends with a NASA astronaut on what is probably supposed to be Mars finding a bong and tossing it into the air a la the ape’s bone toss in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ In between these silly and inaccurate scenes (Hitler was a meth head), are some idiotic straw man arguments in favor of legalization, some useful bits of information, and mildly interesting peeks at cannabis friendly businesses. What it is missing is seriousness.

Cards on the table, I grew up in Colorado in the 1970s, and yes, there was marijuana in my high school. Users then included people who are now lawyers, doctors, elected officials, members of the clergy and accountants. I take the view that the state has no right to regulate my internal body chemistry, and if I have solid information about effects and dosages, I should be allowed any drug I want. At the same time, I take nothing stronger than PG Tips tea, and that’s how it’s been for years. I am a pro-legalization abstainer.

The film is clearly pro-pot, and the two anti-marijuana talking heads are extremists who render the arguments against the drug appear ridiculous. One says people who use marijuana should lose their kids, their healthcare and their driver’s license. The other says pot really is as bad as heroin and LSD. What a serious film would have done is argue that legalization will result in greater use and that marijuana is not entirely harmless. For instance, I firmly believe that smoking anything is going to increase the chance of lung cancer. I don’t know of any data that illustrates one way or the other long-term effects of eating pot on the colon or stomach. That argument is what a serious film might have taken on.

The useful information comes in the form of some personal cases. A young man in Oklahoma suffered from Gervaise syndrome, the very worst variety of epilepsy, having dozens of seizures a day. Doctors there said they could do nothing. Mom and Dad moved him to Colorado where he can get a cannabis oil that stops the seizures – and the film shows it working in a few seconds. Others, addicted to heroin and cocaine, are being treated with marijuana as an exit drug – similar to methadone, but apparently more effective.

Perhaps the most compelling scene was of Oaksterdam University, in Oakland, where people learn the law and the botany of marijuana. One day, the DEA raided it, and local police had to protect the feds from an angry mob. A mile away a school shooting was in progress, and said local police were unable to respond in a timely way because of the nonsense raid.

When it comes to the business of pot, the film looks at restaurants and cannabis infused food, a bed and breakfast in Colorado where guests can spark up together, and a limo service that lets guests travel safely while getting high. Growing the weed is another big part of the project, and I learned that marijuana connoisseurs are every bit as annoying, arrogant and full of crap as wine snobs. But I always suspected that.

Had the film-makers done some homework, they would have found companies like General Cannabis in Denver, which intends to do everything for the marijuana community except touch the plant. It provides security, banking services (the federal banking system still isn’t a good place to put pot money, and the banks don’t want it), grow supplies, real estate brokerage services and more.

Keeping the tone light with 20 or so minutes of comedians doing drug humor over the course of the film might have seemed clever at the time. As it turned out, it amplified the fact that the film could have been a serious look at a major social development and chose not to be.

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