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Medical Marijuana Movie Exposes Mounting Tensions Between Local, State And Federal Drug Policies

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code of the west film marijuana chris williamsProvocative Film Profiles One Montana Community’s Ongoing Struggle

On Tuesday, April 16th, Sundance will release the critically acclaimed documentary CODE OF THE WEST on iTunes, Amazon, and a host of other On-Demand video services. (Downloads will be available here.)

This much anticipated release comes at a pivotal moment in the medical marijuana controversy. Though there are eighteen states and counting, plus the District of Columbia, that have all passed laws legalizing the use of medicinal cannabis, a major backlash is mounting from concerned citizens who say they support the medical use of marijuana, but want to keep marijuana dispensaries “out of their backyard.” Since the federal government still classifies all marijuana use as illegal, no streamlined or formalized process exists to deal with discrepancies in state-level marijuana regulations.

The film – called “eye opening and gripping” by The Nation – chronicles the political process of marijuana policy reform in Montana. The state of Montana was a pioneer in legalizing medical marijuana, but due to lax regulation may now become the first to repeal its medical marijuana law. From the Montana story, other states can learn about what can happen without consistent regulations: patients may not receive their medicine and growers can go to prison, despite following state laws and helping sick people.

The documentary exposes a devastating human narrative behind the stony bureaucracy of state-level marijuana policy. “This is a film about the legislative process, but it is also the story of how different communities struggle to construct a universe of shared values,” said Rebecca Richman Cohen, director of CODE OF THE WEST, “My team and I have tried to capture the human story behind the legislative process of state-level marijuana policy reform – a messy, tangled affair that has implications for policy reform in other states and for the democratic process in the nation at large.”

The result is an emotional story of how communities pay the price when the political process fails. The documentary transcends Montana state politics to show that the lack of proper regulation of medical marijuana has far-reaching implications for marijuana policy across the country.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Norm Stamper, calls the film an “inspired, deeply personal look at the battle over medical marijuana that will turn heads and change minds, not just in the battleground state of Montana but throughout the country.”

The film sets the stage for the necessary conversations that must take place within the drug policy dialogue to ensure that the recent strides in marijuana policy reform do not also fall prey to ruinous counterattacks. It tells a bold story of the dangers of poor regulation of state-level marijuana policy, shedding an entirely new light on the issue of medical marijuana. It is a work that is “a must-see for anyone interested in drug reform,” according to The Austin Chronicle.

The documentary premiered at the SXSW Film Festival, and immediately garnered widespread attention as national news headlines charted states’ ongoing battle for marijuana legalization. It has since been featured on IndieWire and in The New York Times, and the film’s story became a viral phenomenon, reaching #2 on reddit.com. It has played in the Independent Film Festival Boston, the Traverse City Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival, DocNYC, and was featured as part of the “Spotlight on Documentaries” program at IFPs Independent Film Week in 2011.

A new release bringing the story up to the present day premiered March 29-April 4 at reRun Theater in Brooklyn, NY, presented by IFP. Additional screenings are planned at theatrical venues in Colorado and Washington, DC in coordination with 4/20 and national cannabis commemoration day. With this On-Demand release, the video will now be made widely available to the public.

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To preorder CODE OF THE WEST on iTunes , visit the iTunes store. Links to Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, Microsoft X-Box, Sony Playstation / Sony Network Entertainment, SundanceNow and Vudu will be available on the CODE OF THE WEST streaming video landing page when they are available on April 16.

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4 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this movie and thought it brought up a lot of pertinent issues. I live in Illinois, where the House recently approved a medical cannabis bill. Chances are good that it will go on to become law and I’m seeing now that, even if it does pass, the opponents won’t give up. To their credit, I do believe in strict regulations to prevent those who don’t actually need medicinal cannabis from exploiting the law — I think it’s dishonest and leads to complacency toward the larger goal of ending prohibition — but to simply repeal, or defacto repeal, the law isn’t the solution to that problem. Time will tell how things play out in my state and the country at large, but overall things aren’t looking good for prohibition, and that’s nothing to cry over.

  2. Miles Monroe on

    The only good regulation is no regulation. We don’t regulate or control echinacea or St. John’s wort.

    Regulation = Backdoor Recriminalization