Cannabis is a divisive topic wherever you live. I live in Norwich, in the east of England, yet I am as attached to the issue as someone with a severe chronic illness in Brighton, or London, or Belfast is. This is because I have made a feature length documentary about this very issue.
To expand: it is about the largely beneficial effect that cannabis has on people with chronic illnesses. Those who feel the war on drugs has prohibited their medicine ever since the Misuse of Drugs Act was passed by the House of Commons in 1971.
My name is Dale Beaumont-Brown, and I am the producer/director of GrassRoots: The Cannabis Revolution…
I made GrassRoots because someone with a chronic illness reached out to me 4 years ago, someone who thought they could be a good subject for a documentary. That person was Multiple Sclerosis patient Clark French. My cousin.
After not seeing one another for nearly 15 years we met and Clark described the torrential symptoms MS threw at him day in/day out. A modicum of things stuck out from that initial meeting.
One was the fact he had dropped all prescription pharmaceutical drugs and solely medicated with cannabis to combat those symptoms.
Another was that he and a nationally growing community of chronically ill people were campaigning to repeal the UK laws focused on keeping cannabis illegal.
I needed to start documenting Clark’s story as soon as possible and began filming at the 25th High Times cannabis cup in Amsterdam in late 2012. It soon dawned the exact limitations of Clark’s illness however as 12 hours before our flight he had to pull out due to severe illness.
I went to Amsterdam anyway and conversed with the semi-legal (de-facto decriminalised) cannabis industry, and UK-based cannabis campaigners who had made the trip out there.
What began as a short form documentary exploring Clark’s daily struggle with MS and subsequent use of cannabis to combat these symptoms, quickly evolved as I attended sit-ins, protests, rally’s and even patients homes as people told me their stories to be documented in a social-issue driven documentary.
A feature film was born.
In late 2013 I accompanied Clark to Denver, Colorado and San Francisco, California to document how a legal cannabis industry can have (and has been doing since the 1996 passing of Proposition 215) beneficial effects for patients.
It was an eye opening experience and one of the pivotal turning points for the film as the pieces began falling into place for Clark; why on Earth is a system such as this not in place in the UK? His journey once he returned home saw him explore that very question.
GrassRoots develops relationships with the people at the heart of a movement enacting social change. By spending time getting to know why somebody consumes it and documenting their life struggles over 3 years, you can’t help but question the ridiculousness of the current laws that prohibit it.
Therefore, GrassRoots stands not just as a social document but a character study too, one that I think you may relate to, whatever your views on cannabis. When you leave the cinema, or watch it at home, I want you to be shaken by the very real problems people face in getting safe access to cannabis.
Things such as police raids, burglaries, shady, back alley deals, social stigma and the constant threat of imprisonment are issues right at the forefront for these patients as they fight daily to have the choice as adults to determine what is right for them.
So you should be moved to do something yourself; as it is high time for change.
GrassRoots: The Cannabis Revolution has it’s Northern Irish premiere this week from 7pm – 10pm at The Armagh City Hotel, Armagh City on Thursday 15th September.
This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.