DRUGS: In the US state of Colorado, the legalisation of marijuana has seen mass commercialisation and neighbourhoods of colour exploited by unscrupulous profiteers
Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: June 5, 2019


When citizens in Colorado voted to amend their state’s constitution and legalise marijuana for recreational use, many were thinking it would simply grant freedom to the casual user who grew a plant or two in their garden shed, unwind on the couch with a joint, and enjoy their pastime in peace. They didn’t reckon, however, with the aggressive commercialisation of cannabis as a product, which quickly took hold when the laws came into effect in 2014 and has seen neighbourhoods of colour exploited by unscrupulous profiteers. At least, that’s the argument presented in the documentary Pot Luck: The Altered State of Colorado by British filmmaker Jane Wells, which is weighted on the negative side of the cannabis legalisation debate and is more cautionary tale than endorsement. The laws on marijuana in the U.S. differ from state to state, and Colorado was one of the first of eleven states to opt for legalisation. Wells surveys the ramifications through interviews with an array of experts, enthusiasts, members of law enforcement and industry players.

The opening sequence takes us inside the International Church of Cannabis in Denver. Housed in a converted century-old Lutheran church, its eye-popping interior is wall-to-wall neon psychedelia, painted by an artist from Madrid. Church co-founder Lee Molloy guides us through, his demeanour the cliche of the spaced-out stoner, explaining how the organisation, whose members call themselves Elevationists and use cannabis as a sacrament, began. The sequence is played for laughs rather than as a dire warning about any perceived harms of the drug, the director seeming to be under no illusion that cannabis is a scourge on society in any way comparable to America’s opioid crisis, even if she doesn’t trust smoking as a source of tasteful inspiration or productivity (further in, a so-called «old-school pot smoker» in a T-shirt that reads «What Day Is It» archly plays further into the stereotype of the slacker stoner stereotype).

The majority of cannabis dispensaries in the state are concentrated in poor neighbourhoods of colour

The uneven dosages of THC in edibles that persist due to inadequate regulation are referenced as problematic, but the real damage being done in Colorado since the law change, Pot Luck contends, is not so much related to health, but to structural inequality. The majority of cannabis dispensaries in the state are …


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