Every so often a marijuana documentary comes along and retells the story of prohibition. That's the case with Grass Is Greener, directed by hip-hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, which dropped on Netflix on 4/20. But the big difference is Grass Is Greener comes from a black perspective. That hasn't been done before.
While Ron Mann's Grass created the blueprint for such documentaries, Freddy expands on the theme, starting with how jazz was the first American artform to be influenced by cannabis. Since the director is known for his work as an early VJ on MTV (Yo! MTV Raps), much of the movie is musical in nature, covering the reggae explosion of the '70s and the hip-hop revolution of the '80s and '90s. Snoop Dogg, Damian Marley, Darryl McDaniels (Run-DMC), B-Real (Cypress Hill) and Killer Mike are among the featured musical talking heads.
But Grass Is Greener has a more serious focus: the racist War on Drugs that has incarcerated hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic people (mostly men) on drug charges since the the '70s. Portland, Oregon grower Jesce Horton tells how his arrest prevented him from gaining opportunities available to others. Freddy zeroes in on a case in Lousiana where a black man, Bernard Noble, spent 13 years in jail for two joints because he had previous convictions for non-violent offenses. We watch as the family awaits his release and the joy of the nightmare ending.
Others who appear in the film include the DPA's Kasaandra Frederique; ex-NBA player Cliff Robinson; former High Times editors Larry Sloman and Steve Hager; Dr. Carl Hart; authors Asha Bandele, Paul Butler and Baz Dreisinger; trumpeter Kermit Ruffins; and artist George Nelson Preston.
Grass Is Greener is currently streaming on Netflix.