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DVD Review: The Union: The Business Behind Getting High

No, it’s not a Weeds rip-off. It’s The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, a fascinating documentary behind “The Union,” British Columbia’s illegal marijuana industry. While the feature only scratches the surface of the past principles and policies that have dubbed marijuana as “a dangerous and powerful narcotic,” it presents the very valid question of “why?”

Among the many tidbits presented by the film are the previous and current prohibitions against marijuana and hemp. Yellow journalism once cited it as an aggravating substance partaken by those devious ethnic people. During World War II, the US government suddenly switched gears and decided hemp was a valuable commodity. And then those gosh-darn hippies started protesting the war in Vietnam and then President Nixon banned the drug once more — despite the fact that all medical studies proved that there were no negative side effects. Well, no negative side effects other than it made people rather happy and peaceful. Damn hippies.

Nowadays, it’s illegal to even grow hemp — despite the fact that it is ecologically friendly, and can yield vastly superior products. Clothes, fuel, paper, rope, food, oxygen — you name it, hemp seems to do it all without draining our precious fossil resources. It’s also fairly easy to grow. Theoretically, it could maybe even possibly potentially save the planet and stuff.

Ah, but what of that “wacky weed” our prudential and conservative societies spend up to 4/5ths of their annual anti-drug budgets in keeping off the streets? Is it addictive? Bad? Of the devil? Well, let’s just say I myself have known a lot of pot smokers. And apart from a few really stupid individuals (e.g. people that have smoked far too much for far too long or were already psychologically damaged to begin with), these people are not “criminals.” They are not murderers or rapists. They pose no threat to society.

Again, the $64 question emerges: why is marijuana illegal? The Union: The Business Behind Getting High asks that question. It shows us how a simple illegal operation has become a multi-billion dollar giant. And yet, our societies refuse to accept its natural benefits (of which there are many) and continue to spend mega-bucks on prosecuting and imprisoning those who grow, sell, or smoke it. No, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Alas, such a thing is to be expected when there are lobbyists from big tobacco, oil, alcohol, firearms, and those monstrous pharmaceutical industries profiting from keeping a harmless, natural drug at bay.

Incidentally, The Union: The Business Behind Getting High points out that there are zero deaths per year from marijuana usage — as opposed to tens of thousands of untimely demises met annually from tobacco, oil, alcohol, firearms, and pharmaceuticals. Yikes.

But hey, I’m not climbing up on my soapbox here, people. You don’t have to take my word for it. The Union: The Business Behind Getting High has plenty of credited sources that will tell you the same thing and more.

The film interviews historians, writers, scholars, police and government officials, growers, as well as celebrities (Tommy Chong, Joe Rogan, Watermelon Girl) from both sides of the US/Canada border. All of whom are only too proud to expose the façade that “marijuana is evil.”

Phase 4 Films presents The Union: The Business Behind Getting High on DVD in an anamorphic widescreen presentation. Being a documentary, there is a fair amount of footage culled from various sources (including many hysterical “educational” shorts and films).

The “fresher” footage appears crisp and clean on your screen — without any noticeably distracting grain or debris. An English 2.0 soundtrack comes through just fine. Optional Spanish subtitles are included and the movie is closed captioned. The only extras are for some other Phase 4 releases and a trailer for the feature film itself.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of Adam Becvar, a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has wasted a vast majority of his life watching movies - so much so, that a conventional life is no longer in the equation for him. He lives alone (big surprise there) in a rural home with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Really.