Friday, 12 October 2007

The Union: The Business Behind Getting High

Director: Brett Harvey
Country: Canada

This is a documentary about marijuana, the marijuana industry in British Columbia, and the stigma that most of western society (especially the USA) places on this plant. The union referred to in the title is the commonly used name of the loose affiliation of groups and individuals that make the estimated 7 billion dollar illegal industry in BC possible.

This was a real eye-opener for me. I knew to some extent that marijuana wasn't as bad as everybody seemed to make it out to be; I knew that it is the only drug that has never killed anybody, and that smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol, two legalized drugs, are far more dangerous than smoking pot. However, I didn't know how ridiculous the situation really is. I don't usually do detailed summaries of films, but I think this needs to be known.

The basic message of the movie is that marijuana not only is not harmful (tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs, and even coffee are more deadly) but actually has medicinal and commercial benefits. In fact, these two attributes are part of the reason that the plant is prohibited. Drug companies hate to have a natural-growing plant have so many benefits that any manufactured drug cannot give, and many corporations would stand to lose a lot of money if industrial hemp becomes largely used. Because of these benefits, growing marijuana was not only legal before the 20th century, it was actually encouraged.

Another reason for its prohibition (at least in the USA) is that it was used by the government as a reason to be able to arrest people. This leads to very complicated issues regarding politics, war, and profiteering, which I would rather not expand upon, as it would greatly increase the length of this post. The documentary also explains why prohibition never works, using the prohibition of alcohol, which causes more problems than pot, as a perfect example of this. Needless to say, there seems to be no good reason why marijuana is targeted and treated far more seriously than hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and why it is not treated like legalized drugs.

The scary thing is that all of the information in the movie was confirmed by doctors, biochemists, scholars, former politicians, and former law enforcement officials, as well as scientific studies, all agreeing that marijuana poses no harm apart from what the its prohibition creates. This means that the facts, which have been put to study countless times, have been suppressed by the public because of the agenda of lobby groups.

Anyway, as for the film itself, it is a very solid documentary. It informs as well as entertains, and includes many documentaries and facts about the marijuana business, all of which are very interesting. It is put together very well, and flows naturally into each new segment. Most importantly, it gets its point across quite clearly. As strange as this may sound, this bears similarities to An Inconvenient Truth, in that it exposes such an obvious lie by the people in power due to corporate interests.

I highly (no pun intended) recommend this to everybody. It really turns the current views of this controlled substance on its head, and shows that marijuana is not even close to being as bad as the common belief would have you think.

Q&A: The director answered a few questions from the audience. The most interesting bit of this session was when an audience member asked why the "other side" was not interviewed for this documentary. The director said that they had approached certain highly placed officials in charge of drug investigations, asking them if they would like to talk about the marijuana plant. The response was that because they had used the word "plant" instead of "drug" to refer to marijuana, they were perceived to represent the views of the liberal left, which the officials did not want to assist. Another interesting tidbit was that a good portion of the crew that worked on the film had never smoked pot before, and the director himself said that he does not smoke marijuana on a regular basis.

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