Review: 'The Culture High'

The same team that brought us The Union in 2007 is back with The Culture High - a two-hour documentary that examines the War on Drugs with the help of Snoop Dogg, B-Real, Wiz Khalifa and host of legal and science experts.

The film starts ominously with a SWAT team raid. The first voice we hear is the dulcet sound of Dr. Lester Grinspoon, who at 87 might be the oldest and most famous living marijuana legalizer. The parade of talking heads has begun. Sit back and go for the ride.

The Culture High moves swiftly from one topic to another, with special consideration given to the following: origins of the drug war, police compliance in that war, asset forfeiture, prison privatization, prescription drugs, alcohol vs. marijuana and drug scheduling.

Four personal sub-stories are told by interviewees: smuggler Howard Marks, British researcher Dr. David Nutt, former MSNBC news host Cenk Uygur and medical-marijuana dad Jason David.

But mostly the film pinballs from issue to issue, utilizing a solid stable of specialists to illuminate various points. While the famous rappers have their say, others such as Sir Richard Branson, Graham Hancock, ex-cops Ed Burns and Steve Downing, comedian Joe Rogan, author Howard Bloom (no relation), podcaster Cara Santa Maria, Harvard Prof. Charles Nesson, addiction researcher Dr. Gabriel Mate, former MI5 agent Annie Machon, and producers Todd McCormick and Bianca Barnhill get most of the camera time.

Director Bret Harvey uses a wide assortment of documentary tricks, cutting in all sorts of clips that keep the narrative moving along. The Culture High is relentless in its purpose, deadly serious and mildly optimistic, despite the foreboding score. "Eight years and two films later, where do we go from here?" narrator Adam Scorgie asks. The end of marijuana prohibition is "inevitable," Grinspoon says, acknowledging the legalization victories in Colorado and Washington. "They're never going to get that cat  back in that bag again. He's out." 

Host your own screening of The Culture High. The movie will be available on VOD starting Oct. 17.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.