Friday, October 8, 2010


Friday & Saturday Tempe’s Madcap Theater plays Adam Ross’s documentary Cash Crop. The bounty of the title is of course marijuana, which is now reportedly the number one cash crop in 12 states.

California is one of these, & it’s on California that Ross focuses, tracing the homegrown biz along the coast from the Mexican border north, along the Camino Real. The film’s obvious implication is that weed ought to be fully legitimized as an industry.

The movie hangs out in its second half in Mendocino & Humboldt counties, where growing weed has largely filled the gap created by the collapsing timber & fishing industries. Ross gives us portraits of the pot growers & enthusiasts along the trail—young white Rastafarians, grumpy wizened hippies, New Agers, winery yuppies, ranchers. They all seem like perfectly decent folks, but they also seem like they’re trying as hard as possible to conform to the middle-American stereotypes of the Golden State. They’re exactly what people in Des Moines picture when they hear the word “Californians.”

His most interesting talking head is a Mendocino County sheriff, who looks & sounds like a typical conservative law-&-order type. This guy notes that he’s never used pot in his life, but he’s fed up with wasting time & resources—an insane 30%, he estimates—on pot cases. “Let’s move on,” he says bluntly (excuse the adverb).

His position more or less speaks for me. As a piece of cinema, Cash Crop is supple & subtly rhythmic, easily the best “potumentary” I’ve seen, & I’ve seen, & reviewed, a couple of them over the years. I’m always amused by the way these films gaze yearningly on leaves & buds the way another director might ogle a woman’s legs, & Ross does some of this.

His efforts are wasted on me, I’m afraid; like the sheriff I’m not a consumer. I don’t have a personal dog in this race, but also like the sheriff I regard the need to “move on” on this issue as such a no-brainer that it scarcely needs argument.

Again & again, however, attempts to legalize, decriminalize, allow for medicinal usage, etc., are battled by the Right—somehow their fabled libertarianism isn’t roused on this matter. But here, alas, is the challenge for a film like this.

Even a Tea Partier might be convinced by this film that legalization is good idea, if only to provide jobs & thwart foreign traffickers. But they, of course, won’t see it. Cash Crop is pleasant hymn, sung straight to the choir.

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