Pre-Release Movie Review of ‘A NORML Life’

ILLINOIS–(ENEWSPF)–August 12, 2011.  Cassie Brewer, Publicity Coordinator for Cinema Libre Studio, was kind enough to send me an advanced copy of ‘A NORML Life.’ It’s a documentary film about the work that NORML does, as well as a snapshot of the current state of marijuana policy reform in the United States. I say a snapshot, because as most of you are well aware, the scene changes very rapidly. Look at documentaries from just a few years ago and you will see what I mean. However, this film is probably the best documentary I have seen since ‘Super High Me,’ and far more educational.

The movie starts with quotes from some of the people seen later in the film – attorneys, activists, patients, marijuana celebrities, you name it. Then it cuts into a scene with the amazing Vivian McPeak, Executive Director of the Seattle Hempfest. As a member of the Pacific Northwest, I have long admired this man’s courage and dedication toward the movement. He has two of the best quotes in the entire movie, and believe I will be including these in my everyday lingo. He said that America’s pot laws are “fixing a problem that never existed.” He also said that we have “reached a critical mass to deal with this critical mess.” I don’t know if he invented those phrases, but I do know that he is a very hip guy.

The movie then cuts into testimonials from medical cannabis patients. Their ailments include spine problems, degenerative bone disease, thyroid disorders, etc. One patient testimonial was truly inspiring to me (not that the others weren’t, but this one was special). Elvy Musikka is one of four federal medical marijuana patients. She receives marijuana from the United States government, despite the fact that the federal government clings to the erroneous argument that marijuana has no medical value. Elvy is the person that sued the State of Florida to establish the medical marijuana patient defense (August 15, 1988). She rolls around in a ’420 limo’ from event to event, and consumes 12 joints a day to ease her glaucoma.

The next part of the film involves medical marijuana doctors. One of them is Dr Christine Paoletti. She is like every medical marijuana doctor I have met so far; compassionate and knowledgeable. She gives a great scientific breakdown (including visual aids!) about the biology behind cannabis consumption. She explains how it affects nerves issues caused by various ailments. Dr Frank Lucido describes the difference between THC and CBD (cannabidiol), and why it is important to consider ALL of the cannabanoids, not just THC. Your endocannabinoid system requires different strains for different ailments, and people react differently to different strains due to the variation in cannabanoid levels.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is the segment on Jodie Emery and Marc Emery. Jodie describes how she met Marc, and how they fell in love. Jodie has always been one of my heroes since I’ve been blogging because she is so strong, smart, has stellar public speaking skills, and works SO hard for the movement. Not only does she have to deal with the BS over her husbands wrongful incarceration, she also runs the Cannabis Culture juggernaut in Marc’s absence, and fights for the cause by blogging and going to events. A figure that she said was that Marc Emery donated over 4 million dollars over 10 years to almost every area in the marijuana movement. That’s amazing!

Another one of my favorite parts is an interview with the great Wayne Turner. Mr. Turner is an attorney from Washington DC that sponsored Initiative 59 which made medical marijuana legal in Washington DC. To me, this is a story that should be told more often, as DC s the most controversial medical marijuana program since it’s essentially federal (public policy majors this is your time to shine!). The city overwhelmingly passed it (every voter precinct approved it) but Congress stopped it by not funding it, as the federal Congress controls the city budget. Washington DC is big in the news lately, since they are FINALLY implementing their program. I won’t hold my breath that it will be by the deadline, but one can hope right? An awesome fact that I didn’t know is that the feds in Congress tried to block the votes from even being counted in the first place. It took the ACLU teaming up with the initiative sponsors to sue in federal court in order to get the votes counted, and it took 11 months in court to do so. However, the Constitution eventually prevailed, and 1st Amendment professors across the nation have been talking about it ever since.

There’s a clip from another film by the same producers called ‘Hempsters.’ It takes place in Lexington, KY, and it is some of the finest protesting I have ever seen, especially for the midwest. Gatewood Galbraith is leading the charge, and he’s one pissed off mother f’r. I love to see him get all fired up. He gives a very concise, yet solid breakdown of why marijuana is illegal. Usually people get long winded when they try to explain it, but he does a great job.

The legendary R. Keith Stroup, Esq., Legal Counsel/Founder of NORML (1970) is found throughout the film, and rightfully so. It’s crazy to think how long he has been fighting for marijuana legalization. He talks about his first marijuana experience as a freshman at Georgetown Law School. His best quote, “I smoke pot and I like it a lot.” He gives a great breakdown of NORML and what it stands for.

There were a lot of my personal heroes in the film, such as Russ Belville NORML Outreach Coordinator, Allen St. Pierre Executive Director of NORML Stephen W. Dillon, Esp. Chairman of the Board of Directors at NORML, Caren Woodson Americans for Safe Access (nice to see them represented in the film!), William G. Panzer, Esq, and Dr. Dominic Corva Professor at the University of Washington.

George Rohrbacher, Board of Director at NORML, gave a bunch of statistics that I have been trying to dig up forever. NORML’s website has over 10,000 pages, gets 40,000 visitors a day, and has 1.5 million pages downloaded from it’s website everyday. That’s a lot of traffic! He takes a jab at the Marijuana Policy Project; I’m curious to see how many people out there notice ha ha. Sabrina Fendrick is also found in the film. She is the Executive Assistant at NORML, and creator of the NORML Women’s Alliance. It all started with an article about ‘Stiletto Stoners’ and a blog that she wrote about it. That’s truly inspiring.

Probably the best part of the whole movie is a video of Douglas Hiatt, Chair and Co-Founder of Sensible Washington, on stage. He is absolutely fired up, and full of passion as he always is. I had the benefit of talking with him on the phone during the 2010 election, and even through the phone I could fill his energy. He said something in the movie that I think reflects the overall mood of the film, “We’re all grown up now, we’re not in the closet anymore, we don’t give a fuck what you think, we smoke marijuana!” Amen brother!

The film ends with a song by Los Marijuanos called ‘Trippin on Trichomes.’ As a long time hip hop fan, I LOVE this song. I had to roll one up as soon as I heard the beat drop. You might be thinking something that I was also thinking about this film, ‘Where is Ed Rosenthal??’ Ed is like the uncle of all marijuana enthusiasts out there! No worries, Ed was well represented in the film, getting all fired up like he always is. I freakin’ love that guy.

The DVD bonus material is labeled ‘Side Effects’ and features and interview and panel speech by Ray Manzarek of the Doors. I will say one thing, that guy can talk! The interviewer was having trouble coming up with questions and that just resulted in Ray filling in the void with hilarious dialogue and stories of growing up as a stoner in the 60′s. His panel discussion is absolutely fantastic, and at one point the keynote speaker asks Ray, ‘Have you ever seen a 20 dollar bill on weed because he is so trippy when he talks. I could listen to that guy all day. There is also a STELLAR bonus item that talks about NORML.

If you get a chance, swoop this DVD. It’s beyond worth it just as a direct purchase, but it also has the bonus of supporting the nation’s oldest marijuana activist organization. It’s a grassroots organization, and supporting it is something that every marijuana consumer should do because NORML does such a great job of supporting all of us. Also, that Hempsters movie looks pretty good too. I would gladly do a movie review of it as well if I could just get my hands on a copy in the mail….wink, wink Cassie…