Grass – The History of Cannabis:
Director: Ron Mann
Writer: Solomon Vesta
Narrator: Woody Harrelson
This film explores the history of the American government’s official policy on marijuana in the 20th century. Rising with nativist xenophobia with Mexican immigration and their taste for smoking marijuana, we see the establishment of a wrong headed federal drug policy as a crime issue as oppposed to a public health approach. Fuelled by prejudice, hysterical propaganda and political opportunism undeterred by voices of reason on the subject, we follow the story of a costly and futile crusade against a substance with questionable ill effects that has damaged basic civil liberites.
The film places much of the blame for marijuana criminalization on Harry Anslinger (the first American drug czar) who promoted false information about marijuana to the American public as a means towards abolition.
The film follows the history of federal policies and social attitudes towards marijuana, beginning at the turn of the twentieth century. The history presented is broken up into parts, approximately the length of a decade. Each decade is introduced by paraphrasing the official attitude towards marijuana at the time (e.g. “Marijuana will make you insane” or “Marijuana will make you addicted to heroin”), and closed by providing a figure for the amount of money spent during that period on the “war on marijuana.”
The film is completely composed of archival footage, much of which is from public domain U.S propaganda films and feature films such as Reefer Madness made available by the Prelinger Archives. The documentary was narrated, free-of-charge, by actor Woody Harrelson.