A big fan of documentaries? A big fan of weed? Knock two birds with one stone by watching a documentary about cannabis. In case you weren’t aware, Weedmaps released a documentary on the history of cannabis within California. Weedmap’s Uprooted Documentary on California Cannabis focuses on its journey to legalization, the medical aspect to weed, and the current state of the regulated market.
As avid cannabis consumers, it’s helpful to understand how and why cannabis is now available to us. This helpful herb has a history to it and the people of California. Additionally, the documentary is divided into three separate video sections, so you can watch each if you’re short on time. We’ll break down each cannabis episode in order to get you familiar with this documentary.
Weedmaps’s Uprooted Documentary on California Cannabis
The Road to Legalizing California Cannabis
The documentary begins with a comprehensive look at the road to legalizing cannabis in California. Unless you were around during the time or were previously educated, it’s hard to imagine how weed went from a demonizing drug to a publicly accepted substance you can buy at your local dispensary.
After the War on Drugs, it was the public belief that weed was a gateway drug to heavier substances, such as heroin, crack, or meth. Police presence and raids were common in communities of lower-income and Black neighborhoods. It resulted in sending many people to prison, where they received felonies over non-violent offenses. It wasn’t until the AIDs epidemic that the narrative around marijuana began to shift.
The AIDs epidemic placed cannabis in the spotlight for its medicinal use. It highlighted the way this herb could help terminally ill patients and those suffering from chronic pain. The media began to cover the benefits of cannabis as medical treatment, which was the beginning of the legalization of medical use.
Eventually, cities like San Fransico and Santa Cruz passed their own local laws before state officials decided to. It was until 1995 that California completely legalized medical use and cultivation. Unfortunately, certain cities and local laws still did not allow cannabis. Police continued to hold raids and crackdowns on any cannabis business.
Medical Patients Depending on California Cannabis
The second part of the documentary focuses on the medical patients’ laws intended to help when legalizing weed for them. Specifically, how these patients were practically left behind and forgotten about when weed became a regulated, for-profit product.
A big component of the initial medical cannabis laws was the idea of “Compassion Orders”, where those with terminal illnesses could receive waived products. When Prop 64 was passed, it completely changed the landscape for cannabis in California. Within a regulated market, every step of cannabis, from cultivation to sale, has to be taxed. There was a shift in focus from helping those with medical needs to making a profit.
There’s a difference between commercial and non-commercial cannabis businesses. If cannabis organizations wanted to give “Compassion Orders”, they were still required to pay a state excise tax of 15%.
Because of higher costs, and lack of money or resources, many patients opted to buy from the black market. It’s a lot cheaper than the regulated market and requires fewer hoops for the consumer to jump through. Many of these consumers include ill patients and even veterans. Through interviews in the film, we meet these individuals.
These restrictive laws did not come without consequences. As previously mentioned, a large demographic of those who rely on cannabis are veterans. It’s hard to battle the aftermath of war and PTSD on your own. In fact, the suicide rate for veterans is 16.8 per day. Such statistics invoked change. Gov. Gavin Newson signed Senate Bill No. 34 into law, which exempts Compassion Orders from taxes. This will make it easier for those who need weed for medical purposes to access it.
The Current Problems in the Cannabis System
Lastly, the documentary ends by exploring the current cannabis system in California, as well as what the future holds. The disparities of participation and access to the market are traced back to the War on Drugs. Communities of color, especially Black neighborhoods, were greatly impacted. People were sent to prison with long sentences for possessing a small amount of weed.
When cannabis was legalized, there still was and continue to be people who are incarcerated for possessing weed. Thus, decriminalization and justice reform is such a large component of proper legalization.
The documentary also emphasize the importance of a cannabis social equity, and appropiate laws to properly help those who are at a disvadvantage. There have been those who had to fight for their place in the cannabis market, such as Kika Keith. A proper licensing process could go a long way to help establish a leveled playing field.
To learn more, check out Weedmap’s Uprooted documentary on California cannabis.