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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Weed the People documentary review: do-it-yourself medicine in 21st-century America

Weed the People green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A smart, vitally important documentary look at medical marijuana, how it is helping real Americans right now, and why Big Pharma has ignored its healing properties.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
female director, female screenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

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.

People are cooking up life-saving medicine in their kitchens. Is this what health care in the richest country in the world should look like?

People are cooking up life-saving medicine in their kitchens. Is this what health care in the richest country in the world should look like?

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.


Weed the People is now playing at City Cinemas Village East in New York City, with Q&As all opening weekend. See the film’s official site for future dates and cities.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other releases.


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green light 3.5 stars

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Weed the People (2018) | directed by Abby Epstein
US/Can release: Oct 26 2018

MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • RogerBW

    Well, that initial classification in the 1930s was a combination of Hearst (I think) having just bought up some plantations that would have been less profitable if competing with cheap hemp, and its being a recreational drug of choice for black people…

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