In the last ten years, the push for recreational and medical legalization of cannabis has become a hot topic for many states. Today, cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes in 36 states and recreationally in 15, but despite the growing interest in and attention to cannabis as a culture and industry, the stereotype of lazy and couch-ridden potheads still pervades thanks to centuries old legacies of the psychedelic drug.
Cannabis has a complicated past. From the role it played in the war on drugs, to its many uses in medicine, the way it shaped government legislation and the impact it has had on cultural films, shows, and music, cannabis is undeniably an important and massively influential part of American history. And while that all might sound overwhelming to begin to understand, streaming services like Netflix and HBO have a wide selection of cannabis documentaries to choose from to help you get a better understanding of the history of hash.
We put together a list of the best cannabis motion pictures, the dopest documentaries, the cannabis cinema classics (okay, fine, we’ll stop)... so you can learn a bit more about the way marijuana has influenced… well, everything.
This documentary is found at the top of nearly every list—and for good reason. It takes a deep dive into the origins of cannabis prohibition and the war on drugs to gain a better understanding of not only how legislation around cannabis shaped the industry but why it happened. With interviews from celebrities, former undercover agents, university professors, and more, The Culture High is a well-done must-watch for any person interested in the legislation and history of cannabis.
While 1 in 8 adults use cannabis recreationally, cannabis also has tremendous medical benefits and has been a practice of doctors for centuries. Weed the People tells the story of patients whose life-and-death illnesses are treated with cannabis, and illustrates the uphill battle families and parents face to get that care for their children. This documentary shows just how effective and life-saving medical cannabis can be and offers an insightful look at the good in the green.
Snoop Dogg, Fab 5 Freddy, B-Real, and Damian Marley are interviewed for this cannabis documentary focusing on how America’s complicated relationship with race, cannabis, and music are all intertwined. From jazz musicians to hip hop artists, Black men were at the forefront of cannabis advocacy. Grass is Greener looks at how the war on cannabis legalization was influenced by music and culture and how its prohibition was steeped in injustice.
If you’ve already watched The Culture High, we recommend taking a look at The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, which was directed by the same people. What makes this documentary stand out is it’s look at the business side of things. The Union: The Business Behind Getting High examines the profitable cannabis trade between British Columbia and the United States, and tracks the growth of cannabis as an industry despite its illegal status through in-depth interviews with police, politicians, doctors, economists and pop culture icons.
If you’re looking for a less serious look at the effects of cannabis, this is the documentary for you. Comedian Doug Benson undergoes a 30 day experiment where he gets high every day and tracks his medical, IQ, and psychic evaluations for your viewing pleasure. And if that doesn’t sound fun enough, he also takes you along for the ride as he performs standup across the country with friends.
What started as VICE documentary turned into a full-blown docu-series covering everything from veterans who use cannabis to treat PTSD, families who relocated to receive medical cannabis, and women putting the Mary back into Mary Jane. Watch it all or choose your own adventure episode by episode.
In 2015, Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis. After its legalization, The Denver Post launched The Cannabist, a website dedicated to covering weed news with a dedicated editor to oversee coverage. This documentary looks at the way the legal recreational cannabis industry was built nearly overnight and shows how news outlets covered the changes in consumption, perception, and use in modern America.
The cannabis industry might be new, but the stories of how weed shaped our modern world are much bigger than the last ten years. These documentaries and films are just the tip of the iceberg for understanding its complicated past. People who use marijuana do it for a multitude of reasons, and whether it’s for medical treatment, hanging out with friends, or relaxing on your own, they’re all valid. These cannabis documentaries provide a more wholistic viewpoint of how cannabis shaped our culture, legislation, and history.