Pot (the movie), a documentary by South Dakota filmmaker Michael Hope, premiered at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Film Festival on Saturday. It's an encyclopedic take on all of marijuana's forms and uses, the research behind its effects and the history of prohibition.
It also features some real-life stories of weed refugees, including that of Minnesota's own Angela Brown, who was charged with child abuse last summer for treating her teenage son with cannabis oil after he sustained a traumatic brain injury in 2011. If convicted, Brown will face two years in prison and a $6,000 fine.
All that for taking a Colorado medical marijuana specialist's advice and giving her kid the one thing that helped with his muscle spasms and chronic migraines over four years.
Brown's trial is coming up on April 22, and she says the final weeks of preparation have been emotional. The district attorney who originally insisted on prosecuting her has been removed from the case, and the new DA is offering her another chance to have the charges dismissed in the 11th hour.
Despite the ups and downs in her case, Brown appeared alongside Hope to talk about Pot (the movie) after its Saturday showing at the St. Anthony Main Theater.
"My charges are pretty crazy, because any one of you could have drank the entire bottle of oil and basically would have just taken a good nap and had a bag of Doritos," Brown told the audience. "That's all that would have caused, and I'm being charged with child endangerment. We can only hope and pray that the judge and the DA can come to an understanding with us."
Pot (the movie) also tells the story of Colorado mother Ashley Weber, a legal medical marijuana patient paralyzed in a rollover accident with a drunk driver. In 2012, she was threatened with eviction from her federal housing because of its zero tolerance policy against marijuana use, even for medical means. After a year of fighting the Longmont Housing Authority, Weber won a policy change and the right to remain in the house where she is raising her five-year-old son.
Hope says he made Pot (the movie) as a sort of public safety announcement about the benefits of recreational pot and the distorted legal harassment of medical marijuana users like Weber and Brown. Saturday's screening filled out the theater, but what Hope really wants is for lawmakers to take a look as well.
"As a lawmaker, your role is basically to protect and legislate for your constituents," Hope says. "Well your constituents are being taken out of their homes, being taken away from their families ultimately for a substance that is safer than alcohol."
Medical marijuana becomes available in Minnesota starting in July, but Brown says she and her family are preparing to move out to Colorado. Her son Trey might have been approved to receive medical pot, but there's no way she can afford the $55 a gram Minnesota charges. With legal fees, doctor's fees and the losses to her massage therapy business from all the time she spends in court or at the clinic, Brown is $20,000 deep in debt.
"The DA has been pretty vicious this year," Brown says. "We have known meth dealers in our town that everybody just turns a blind eye to, except everybody's in my ass all the time for trying to take care of my child. Trey's ready to be a normal teenager."
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