Marijuana Australiana is a rambunctious, intelligent and timely documentary about the history of cannabis culture in Australia – from its beginnings as a recreational drug among the country’s youth to its emergence into the mainstream as an alternative and effective medicine – and the political posturing around it.
Mullumbimby-based Richard Baron’s informative and often funny film takes us to the nation’s cannabis capital, Nimbin, where he captures the sheer anarchic merriment of the legalise-it movement in footage of the MardiGrass.
The Ganja Fairies Dance, the police join in a tug of war with the locals and everything seems rosy. Meanwhile the war on drugs smoulders on: users are busted, producers of the medicine are imprisoned despite them being “motivated by compassion”, as Baron says.
There are eye-opening and entertaining interviews with the smokers and reformers and the connoisseur breeders and growers, bush pharmacists behind the underground medical cannabis trade. The police and others in the anti-camp, including the director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre Institute, Prof Jan Copeland, are also given their say.
But it’s the growers who are the more persuasive: the dedicated, determinedly maverick larrikin producers like bush doctor Tony Bower. They adore their plants, take pride in their product and, tellingly, are benevolent, barely making a living, risking their freedom to produce medicine.
Most eloquent are the mothers of children with extreme forms of epilepsy or cancer, quietly celebrating their survival, and the improvements in their kids’ quality of life and survival. One mother’s quiet testimony is the most powerful voice of all: “It saved my son’s life,” she says.