DVD Review: The Culture High (USA, 2014)

culture higher

The Culture High takes one side of a polarising, public debate. It argues that marijuana should be legalised. This crowd-funded documentary is from the makers of The Union: The Business Behind Getting High and takes up where the latter one left off by giving a detailed but rather weighted perspective.

Director Brett Harvey shocks us in the opening scenes of this film by showing a family being raided by a local police unit. The drug crime ultimately leads to a $300 fine and the family’s dog is shot in the process. This scene is one of many in this film which shows how local police in America are often failing- as they are being militarised in a “war” on drugs and are often turning their focus on the small-time drug user rather than the big cheeses who smuggle and sell the stuff.

The story goes back 77 years where marijuana was first prohibited in all U.S. states. It also attempts to quash some myths about the drug’s perceived harms. At times the talking head interviewees include former law enforcement officials and other professionals and specialists like a law professor, economist, behaviour researcher, addiction specialist, neuropharmacologist and neuropsychiatrist. They often argue that alcohol and prescription drugs are more damaging on society than cannabis.

This documentary seeks to dispel some of the misinformation about drugs and occasionally the narrator (Adam Scorgie) presents some facts. It also tries to highlight some of the hysteria surrounding the issue by showing short sound bites of anti-drug campaigners on TV in other interviews or advertisements. None of these people are actually interviewed for this documentary, however, meaning the argument is very much biased towards the “for” decriminalisation category.

Other interviewees in The Culture High include rappers Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa as well as comedian, Joe Rogan and entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson. In addition to these celebrities are some personal stories including one about Jason David and his son, Jayden. The latter suffered bad, daily seizures and the former was at his wits’ end both financially and emotionally. The young boy eventually tried medical cannabis and this yielded more positive effects than the cocktail of heavy prescription medication he had previously taken (and the medical marijuana helped the boy to eventually be weaned off the majority of the prescription meds).

The Culture High is an interesting story but at times it feels a little heavy-handed in trying to drive the pro-marijuana point home. It paints a very dark picture of America – where an apathetic public readily accept strange cocktails of prescription medication while turning a blind eye to the effects of alcohol and the proceeds of the seized assets of those convicted on drug charges (this money often helps boost the budgets of local law enforcement). The energy in this documentary is fast-paced meaning it will sustain your attention and get you thinking about this debate. It’s a dialogue that needs to be opened up but at the same time, The Culture High does not have all the answers.


The only bonus features this DVD contains is a series of trailers for other films.

The Culture High is now available on DVD through Eagle Entertainment.


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