A disclaimer regarding this review of the documentary "The Culture High," which Entertainment One Films is releasing theatrically and on VOD on October 17 2014, is that '50s sitcom "Father Knows Best" star Billy Gray once laughed and commented while discussing his marijuana use with your (often humble) reviewer "you don't smoke, do you." Said reviewer will only admit to finding the kitchen witch in a high school friend's house ridiculously hilarious on one occasion and refusing to go up to see his own mother while home during a college break on a second occasion.
Advice regarding seeing this film on the costs of the drug war and other reasons for legalizing marijuana is that you stock up on snacks on arriving at the theater to avoid finding that they are sold out.
The first spoiler regarding "Culture" is that views regarding the legalizing marijuana are so entrenched in the minds of folks for and against it that it seems unlikely that the "facts" that this film presents will convince many people who disfavor legalization to change their minds. The second spoiler is that the film does not completely succeed in achieving the twin goals of a documentary to inform and entertain.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a promo for "Culture" concisely presents the thesis of the film and provides a look at the well-known and lesser-known folks who share their opinions and knowledge in the film.
Keeping the observation of Gray in mind, "Culture" reflects the truism that propaganda that supports your view is still propaganda. A similar fact is that there is your story, the story of the other guy, and the truth.
One must also remember that statistics can be manipulated to support any argument. An example from "Culture" is that presented statistics show that the same percentages of white people and black people ingest marijuana but that the incarceration rate of the latter is between four and eight times higher than the rate of the former. That finding does not reflect the fact that the (arguably skewed) incarceration rate reflects sentences for a wide range of offenses other than those related to marijuana.
The element of propaganda is much more prevalent and commences with the opening scene of "Culture." This footage of law-enforcement officials gathering at the front door of a home in final preparation for a drug raid is very reminiscent of the opening segment in the Michael Moore uber-uber-uber-uber propaganda "documentary" "Capitalism."
The "Capitalism" scene shows a family huddled down in a darkened house awaiting a supposedly violent delivery of a foreclosure notice regarding which they equally supposedly did not receive the legally required extended period of notice.
The larger issue regarding the raid that "Culture" depicts is that the team that carries out the effort is acting on eight-day-old information. The fact that the team is acting on this (presumably reliable) report of significant drug activity does not make the heavy use of firepower from the start any more surprising than the fact that the raid does not reveal indications of such heavy use a week after receiving the underlying intel.
Similarly, well-known legalization advocate comedian Joe Rogan and the numerous other talking heads (no pun or disrespect intended) that participate in "Culture" almost exclusively refer to the criminalization of marijuana as "prohibition" in an openly acknowledged effort to compare it to the banning of alcohol in the 1920s. Very few (if any) people refer to laws that fall under the umbrella of "gun control" as firearms prohibition.
The topics in "Culture" include the standard arguments regarding comparing the harmful effects of marijuana and alcohol, the amount of money spent on the drug war, prison overcrowding, and arguably unduly harsh sentences for arguably minor drug offenses.
A discussion of DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart is one of the most insightful and entertaining in "Culture." The (of course edited) footage of Leonhart supports the theory that the DEA does not properly understand the nature of the substances that it regulates.
The discussion of Leonhart being a reportedly conservative holdover from the "W" years seems irrelevant; the numerous gaffes of both "W" and Obama across the board show that incompetence is not limited to either party.
The filmmakers make another good point regarding how theoretically objective news organizations improperly select stories and how to present them based on financial considerations; a provided example of interrupting a "hard" news story for a "soft" one illustrates this point well. Going onto include a segment on a news story regarding footage of skydiving cats makes one wonder what the filmmakers were smoking while producing "Culture."
The filmmakers do a better job regarding the apparent conflict related to various degrees of decriminalization of marijuana in some states and this substance still being illegal under federal law. This portion of the film includes good coverage of the topic of the extent to which the Obama administration is directing enforcement efforts at growers who are not violating state law.
A news story a couple of weeks ago about the federal laws causing marijuana growers in Maine to hesitate to seek law-enforcement assistance regarding a rash of robberies at their facilities demonstrates the aforementioned point of the filmmakers.
The bottom line regarding "Culture" and the drug war itself is that the aforementioned strong feelings on both sides and propaganda hinder establishing a proper drug policy.
A (fairly objective) fact is that the economy, viable threats to national security, the need for renewable energy sources, our literally crumbling infrastructure, and NUMEROUS other issues that DIRECTLY affect our well-being should receive far more attention from the feds and the states than the extent to which a "420 friendly" individual who indulges in his or her lifestyle despite knowing the degree to which it is legal is going to be called to task for that behavior.
Anyone who has questions or (civil) comments regarding "Culture" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.