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Friday, August 16, 2013

Blowing Smoke: The Medical Marijuana Controversy (Documentary)

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Mike Holifield

Blowing Smoke is a documentary based on the origins of laws concerning recreational and pharmaceutical prescription use of marihuana.

This is the first film about the medical marijuana controversy that lays it all on the table. I'm not pulling any punches. It is what it is! People have been playing by the "rules" for far too long. What rules, I say! The truth is the truth. Sure, this film will make some people mad. That's expected. Their entire belief system will be turned upside down, when they realize they've been lied to and played like a cheap violin. 
Blowing Smoke: The Medical Marijuana Controversy is not the first documentary to tackle the subject of medical marijuana, or American drug laws.  However, Blowing Smoke is the first documentary to approach the subject from a historical analysis, as well as being based on specific mass communications theories and how the media manipulation effected public opinion and policy.
But it doesn't stop there. I am also developing a website to supplement the film as a secondary resource. Sure, there are other sites that have the information as well, and they're great sites. But most people don't have the time or resources to find all the information.  This site is dedicated to the film and will focus on the facts presented in the film.
Why it's important?
Marijuana legalization is a highly debated topic within the news today.  In 2011, a Gallup poll indicated that for the first time in American History, over 50% of Americans supported marijuana legalization.  Similar polls indicate that 80% of Americans support marijuana legalization for medical purposes.  More recently, 2 states voted to fully legalize marijuana and regulate it, which is in direct opposition to federal law.  Yet, most people don't know that marijuana was once a widely prescribed medicine.  Most people are also unaware that it was a very specific media campaign that turned this medicine into what became known as the "devil weed".  This campaign included targeted themes...themes such as racism, violent crime, and insanity were all proposed and presented by the U.S. Government and government officials to the American public.  The scary part... we're still doing some of the same things that were done in 1937!
While several documentaries have touched on some of these themes, they've never fully investigated the importance of these themes. For instance, most people only know that Harry J. Anslinger was the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. However, Anslinger was probably THE most influential person in the American public policy regarding drugs. Anslinger's career spanned over 30 years at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and continued at the United Nations. He didn't stay there by playing nice!!!  But his influence, and some of his ideas, are still carried out today in what has become known as the "War on Drugs".
Background on the Project
This documentary started as part of my thesis project for my Master's Degree in Mass Communications.  I have researched the project for over a year, and have finished the requirements for my degree (a thesis paper and a 30 minute documentary).  However, there is much more of this story that needs to be told.  During my research, I was able to uncover specific strategies and themes that were promoted by the government.  I feel it is vitally important for people to understand how these strategies and themes have effected their lives.  For instance, most people are aware of the film Reefer Madness, but most people don't know that there were a series of movies that promoted similar themes during the 1930s.  Some of these movies were actually based on government officials representations of what they believed happened when people used marihuana.  However, these interpretations were in direct opposition to what the scientific and medical community was telling us.
Most people are also unaware that the strategies and the media campaign used by the federal government often involved racism and demonizing entire populations of America.  The first marihuana laws passed in America were passed 2 decades before the Marihuana Tax Act, and they were aimed at controlling Mexican Immigrants in the Southwest, and African Americans in the South and Northwest.
While I was able to complete a 30 minute documentary for my degree, there is so much more of the story that needs to be told.  That's where this project comes in, and why I am needing help to finish it.  The original project needs to be re-edited, and the script expanded to include information I had to leave out of the original.  Think longer and more in depth than anything ever seen.  The final goal is to be about 2 1/2 hours of the most factual information on the medical marijuana controversy.  Think of it like a mini-series detailing one of the most controversial topics of our time.
This is NOT your hippie stoner film
Hippies and stoners are cool, don't get me wrong, and they're gonna love this film...because they're RIGHT!  But there's so much more to the medical marijuana controversy than people just wanting to get high.  There are people fighting for their lives.  That's why this film is so in depth.  People need the knowledge to fight the ignorance and lies that surround us on a daily basis.
The original film only traces some events from 1913 up until 1937, but there were other major events that happened along the way.  Themes such as addiction, racism, jazz music, violent crime and insanity are explored along with actual historical and political events.  Many of the same themes can be seen within the media today.
During the 1940s there was a complete reversal of the law during World War II, and then the law was reinstated.  There was also one of the first scientific commissions to study marijuana and it's effects on humans...yet the study was completely ignored and the scientists were discredited because it conflicted with their media campaign.  During the 1950s and 60s, the message about marijuana changed again, to follow public sentiment about current events.  But how the message changed and the effects on public policy and laws has been explored very little.  Then, finally, you had a culmination of events that unfolded when the U.S. adopted the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.  Yet there was still controversy brewing over what to do with marihuana and how to approach government control.
Now that may sound like a lot, but there's even more that needs to be covered.  By also examining events and government policies of the 80s and 90s, one can see the depth of the governments propaganda campaign.  One will be able to see how the vicious cycle has been repeated over and over, and what impact this cycle is having on us today.
More importantly, one will be able to decide how these policies can effect not only themselves, but also their loved ones. 
The truth will set you FREE
All of the information will be verifiable, and much of the information will be based on government or media documents.  While other films may talk about the existence of documents and programs, the goal of this film is to present the viewer with the actual information and let them decide on their own.  Selected authors and experts will be interviewed to give their insights into the subject as well.  Some of the interviews have already been conducted, but there are other interviews that need to be filmed as well.
That's where the money comes in.  This project needs to be completed by November of this year.  I have already invested several thousand dollars in travel expenses, as well as almost $10,000 in audio, video, and editing equipment to make this film a success (not to mention the student loans).  While I was in school, I had the luxury of working with a talented narrator, but now I need to be able to pay for a narrator to expand the project and give the film the sound it deserves.  I plan on using some archival footage of Harry J. Anslinger and other government officials, however this footage is not in the public domain and will cost money to be included in the film.  I need to be able to finish the remaining interviews that I have not been able to get... this means traveling to them.  I also need to be able to access some more government documents that are in storage, and make copies.  I need to be able to outsource certain tasks that I am not able to complete, and maybe hire a few actors to do some re-enactments.  Hey, I don't know it all, but I know people that can get it done.
But wait...there's more!  Don't ya just love that cheesy line???
It doesn't just stop with the film.  I am also creating a website that supplements the film.  ALL of the information will be presented not only in the film, but also available for download.
But for now, the film is almost an all star cast. Just take a look at the people I've interviewed so far:

Amanda Reiman, Ph.D, Drug Policy Alliance
Mitch Earlywine, Ph.D, author of "Understanding Marijuana"
Keith Stroup, NORML Founder
Dale Gieringer, Ph. D., CA NORML
Arnold Leff, M.D.
David Bearman, M.D.
Stephen Downing, LEAP
Terry Nelson, LEAP
Dianne Goldstein, LEAP
"Radical" Russ Bellville
Chris Glew, Attorney
Beth McCaulley, Green Standard Diagnostics
Judge Jim Gray
Derek Cross, Author "Hemp Healthy Today"
As you can see, a tremendous amount of time has already been devoted to this project... and there is much more that needs to be done.
This is a movement about people.  That's why the rewards are low, and the benefits are pun intended ;) I want as many people as possible to help make this happen.  This film is about people, and people will make this film happen.  It's all about numbers and I expect a LOT of people to help out.  It's about getting people involved, giving and getting back.  Now, don't get me wrong... if you feel like contributing some obscene amount of money, you'll get something incredible. All contributions are greatly appreciated and you won't be disappointed!

Risks and challenges

The biggest risks and challenges will be getting the interviews necessary to finish the project. If there are interviews that can't be captured, I'm sure it will be necessary to write the script for the narrator to portray, or possibly have character actors read the parts.
The only other challenge will be after the project is finished to distribute the film. This is where digital media and offering the video as a downloadable or streamable video-on-demand will be necessary. Since one of the ideas behind the project is to sites such as kickstarter and social media outlets, it lets more people be involved in the finished project as well. I plan on launching a website dedicated to not only distributing the product, but also providing supplemental information to the film to be downloaded. I feel this approach will enable viewers and supporters to have a full and rich multimedia experience, and also give them something tangible they can review later on, or download as they need.
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