Apr 22, 2019 05:05PM
● By Dan McCarthy
One could be forgiven if, upon seeing the poster art for Weed the People, which debuted at SXSW last March, one surmises the film is going to be a call to arms for weed-loving people everywhere.
But the raised-clench-fist imagery, when looked at closer, shows the tiny cherubic arm of a child in place of a galvanizing protagonist lead character. Thus, the film’s story starts to come into focus, as does the journeys of five children suffering from various forms of pediatric cancers and their parents navigating the byzantine US healthcare system and its failings for their children. The film catalogues each family with a delicate but honest portrayal of what the children and parents were going through while exploring potentially life-saving cannabis treatments for their kids and looks at the future of cannabis data collection and efficacy as a treatment. And as one could expect, there were a lot of moments caught that on their own could be emblematic of the pressing need to continue to push for full legalization and federal research into the medical efficacy of cannabis treatments for pediatric cancers.
“I think the whole film was filled with moments,” says Epstein, noting the project is intended to help people understand there are kids dying and getting cannabis medicine made in garages and kitchens, and that the need for a regulated, tested product marketplace to get lifesaving medicine to those in need, especially children, has never been more real. In other words, just let the camera capture what it captures. Reality will present the rest.
“The film is really an anecdotal spotlight on these families,” Lake says. “I look back and realize we were so ahead of the curve when we began the project, and I only stumbled on it by accident.”
Speaking with Leafly last year, Lake and Epstein pointed to Lake’s late husband, Christian Evans, who started his own research into cannabis treatment for migraines, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression (along with bipolar disorder) that left him bedridden. Evans met a young girl with tumors growing in her nerve endings, who wound up living with them for weeks as they tried to source cannabis treatments and information to support her. From there, Lake’s exposure to the culture and the idea to document and present the matter in a film came to be.
“I think a lot of people get thrown by the title and think it’s just a pro-recreational weed film,” says Epstein. “But after the first couple minutes, [it’s clear] this is something different. There’s so much stigma around cannabis, and there are a lot of people who automatically assume they are not interested in the topic for whatever reasons. So a lot of the hurdle has been getting people just be open to seeing this film and what cannabis is doing for children like this.”