"The Cannabis Question" explores America's complicated, ongoing relationship with cannabis, the plant responsible for criminalizing a vast number of Americans. Yet, it has also created a thriving health and wellness industry in states where it is legal to use.
It's been called a wonder drug by many doctors, scientists and users alike who have experienced its positive effects on pain management, cancer, PTSD and more. But almost the same amount of people are also calling cannabis a “work-in-progress” drug as only a handful of scientists continue to discover more about how it affects our bodies and brains, uncovering potential risks and even more medicinal benefits.
Cannabis is now a multi-billion dollar industry, emerging from the shadowy world of the illicit drug trade into the fast-moving consumer-goods world of retail business. It has been legalized as a recreational drug in 19 states. In comparison, 12 states have decriminalized its use, leading millions of people to smoke, vape, eat and dab cannabis for fun and medical reasons. There are cannabis chocolates, soft drinks, lotions, oils, extracts and more, fueling a multi-billion dollar industry.
Almost 17% of Americans use cannabis in some form, and it is often branded and sold for medicinal purposes, but there have not been many scientific studies on the plant in the United States. But since it is still classified as a dangerous drug by the federal government, which is the same category as heroin, and has no approved medical uses, the research has been limited. However, a few scientists are doing just that, and the documentary follows five examples of these clinical studies that provide deeper insights into what cannabis is, the effects on the body of long-term cannabis use and why we are very receptive to what it brings.
First is the ongoing research into the body's endocannabinoid system. It is made up of chemical receptors found in our brain and body, particularly in the areas that regulate your cognition, memory, and emotion. If there are issues with this system, it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epilepsy, opioid addiction, and anxiety.
Cannabis has been known to successfully treat these conditions so that patients don't need to use opioids or higher-priced pharmaceutical drugs. Ongoing research is also taking place on whether it can help children with severe autism and how it affects infants' brains due to increased cannabis use in pregnant women. Another group is looking into the adolescent brain, checking on cognitive differences between those who take cannabis recreationally and those who don't use it.
But since it is still not entirely legal in all states, cannabis continues to drive the numbers of mass incarceration up in the USA. It also targets people of color, with more arrested for cannabis-related offenses than any other racial group, despite an equal number of white and black Americans who consume marijuana.
There are many unanswered questions regarding cannabis, particularly its actual medical benefits and how it will be classified nationwide, thus earning the moniker "work-in-progress" drug.
Directed by: Sarah Holt