‘Cash Crop’ documentary explores marijuana industry [Video]

By on October 27, 2010

Call it bud. Call it cannabis, or even ganja. Call it whatever you want. It’s the biggest cash crop in America, worth an estimated $35.8 billion.

Northern California’s “Emerald Triangle” consists of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties. Here lies an industry where growing pot is 90 percent of the economy.

Director/producer Adam Ross, a New York native and musician who studied film at New York University, began filming “Cash Crop” in the summer of 2007, unearthing the cultural and economical implications of the plant.

“I was on a different planet,” Ross said. “But in this I found all these real core American values and issues of entrepreneurialism and sustainability and freedom and liberty, and issues like greed.”

Ross said he believes the film humanizes the issue, without the injection of facts and statistics just to prove a point. There is no voice-over narration. Instead, Ross lets the people, who depend on the industry for their livelihood, tell their own stories.

“It’s a different kind of documentary. It’s more like an experience,” Ross said. “You have to kick back and let it take you for a ride. People who want to hear sensational things…they aren’t going to get that.”

Ross began investigating and filming with no set agenda. He knew some growers in Southern California, and asked them to take him in.

What began as a 20-minute short film with some cool music turned into a feature-length documentary in high definition; an experiential, music-driven insight into the industry, with an original soundtrack by Ross.

Ross was able to focus on the lives of the individuals in the middle of the marijuana debate.

“They’ve got pharmaceuticals in our drinking water. Here [the federal government] is chasing us down for pot,” said a person interviewed for the film. “Yeah, it makes us crazy, but we haven’t killed anybody; we haven’t harmed anybody.”

“Cash Crop” premiered in New Haven at the Bowtie Criterion Cinemas on Friday – perfectly timed with California’s Proposition 19 ballot initiative in November, calling for the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana. Ross believes there is a good chance it will pass.

Ross believes the hypocrisy of the issue is the main problem with marijuana becoming such a prevalent debate in our society.

“It’s kind of ironic this pot issue is telling people ‘Hey, get with reality.’ This is the reality,” Ross said. “This is a huge cultural thing….It’s not the cannabis or the pot. It’s the abuse. And the country has a culture of abuse.”

Ross compares legalizing marijuana to the acceptance of homosexuals in our nation and the military; one must acknowledge the issues and just move on. After all, Ross said an estimated 15 to 20 million people are smoking pot every day and 100 million people a year try it.

“There were, I think, 30 million prescriptions written for Zoloft last year. And that doesn’t include Paxil and Prozac and all these other drugs,” Ross said. “So, the whole country is medicated and self-medicated. And this is a plant that’s been used for 8,000 years.”

Compared to what else is out there, Ross believes marijuana shouldn’t be considered an issue in leading to the use of other substances.

“The real gateway drugs are caffeine and tobacco and sugar,” Ross said. “I’ve interviewed and spoken with many psychiatrists and people in mental health who honestly believe that marijuana is an exit drug….It’s actually facilitating people to get off cocaine and heroin and other drugs.”

Ross said in times of difficulty, Americans turn to nature for answers. At the end of the day, this film is about a plant. But it’s even more so about culture and the changing times.

“It wasn’t just about pot anymore,” Ross said. “And that’s what really touched me and made me realize the more far-reaching implications that have to do with so many real American issues.”

For more information about Adam Ross’s film “Cash Crop,” visit cashcropmovie.com

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