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Film Review: American Drug War 2: Cannabis Destiny

July 29, 2013

433080700_640For as long as there’s been a war on drugs, there have been people declaring it a horrible waste of time and money at best and legally enforced racism at worst. Documentary filmmaker Kevin Booth’s last three credits either looked at the war on drugs with a skeptical eye or touted the booming industry of legalized marijuana, so there’s little doubt about where he stands on these things. By making another film on the same topic, Booth suggests he has more to tell, that in the battle against marijuana and narcotics, there are a plethora of compelling reasons for him to get behind the lens again.

American Drug War 2: Cannabis Destiny, Booth’s latest and the sequel to the 2007 film he first used to explore the drug trade, shows this to be a false assumption.

Instead, it feels like your conspiracy-theory-loving stoner buddy starting to get a bit paranoid after taking a puff too many and going on about how the government is suppressing the many benefits of cannabis because they’re in the pocket of behemoth corporate drug companies; how those same drug companies are doping up our kids on anti-depressants to the point of dependency. Cannabis, he says, is a wonder drug that may even cure cancer, if only Uncle Sam would pull his head out of his ass.

Even if you’re inclined to believe your buddy, there’s a point where you wish he’d just shut up.

Over the course of a nearly an hour and a half — a half hour too much, and even that may be generous — Booth parades talking head after talking head, most of them pro-pot, to blather about the drug war and marijuana’s possible benefits. Outside the heartbreaking story of a young boy battling a stage four brain tumor whose parents insisted on treating him with cannabis oil and radiation, to positive results, there is little else resembling a narrative worth following.

In fact, there’s hardly anything resembling a narrative. We’re swept into Mexico to see the very deep scars from the warring drug cartels there, but not enough time is given to this aspect of the story to add much substance. Booth brings us into his own life, showing a young girl he and his wife adopted through foster care. Prior to that, the girl speaks of being fed Adderall every morning and anti-depressants at night. Troubling, yes, but an out-of-place tangent in a movie that otherwise focuses on one drug in particular.

We later see Booth attempting to grow pot in his own house in California and discussing the great expense in doing so. It’s utterly useless information. Near the end, in a rather short and haphazard fashion, he tells us about how his dog died suddenly from cancer, and how marijuana may have helped save the beloved family pet. By this point in the movie, we’re already well aware of cannabis’ potential as a cancer remedy. So instead of connecting with a personal story, the viewer is meant to feel as if Booth is slapping them across the face with his message in case they didn’t catch it the first time.

To be sure, plenty of what’s said in the movie, even by so-called experts whose credentials don’t seem all that official, makes good sense. And some of the research going into alternative uses for marijuana might be enough to pique your interest, if only for a bit. But the slapdash way in which American Drug War 2 goes from the prohibition to Big pharma to cannabis’ great potential fails to connect the dots and make a larger point, like a stoner trying to make a grand argument and then losing his train of thought.