Rolling Pa­pers

ROLLING PA­PERS, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, Jean Cocteau Cinema, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - — Lau­rel Glad­den

“Are you high right now?” Di­rec­tor Mitch Dick­man asks that ques­tion of nearly ev­ery­one he in­ter­views in his colorful doc­u­men­tary, which be­gins on Jan. 1, 2014 — the day shops across Colorado be­gan sell­ing pot legally.

When vot­ers in Colorado le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana in 2012, Greg Moore, editor of the Pulitzer Prizewin­ning Den­ver Post, rec­og­nized the cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of the mo­ment and wanted to make sure the topic re­ceived fo­cused, bal­anced at­ten­tion. Ac­cord­ingly, he ap­pointed Ri­cardo Baca, the pa­per’s long­time en­ter­tain­ment editor and mu­sic critic, as its first mar­i­juana editor and head of its new ganja-fo­cused web­site, The Cannabist. Baca en­listed the help of sea­soned staff (such as com­par­a­tively straight-laced in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists Eric Gorski and John In­gold) and hired some new writ­ers — critic and pho­tog­ra­pher Ry Prichard, con­nois­seur Jake Browne, and Brit­tany Driver, who tack­les a col­umn on par­ent­ing for pot smok­ers. It’s worth not­ing that the film’s ti­tle ref­er­ences more than one kind of pa­per. Not sim­ply fo­cus­ing on the topic of le­gal­iza­tion, the film points out that a floun­der­ing long­time in­dus­try (news­pa­pers) might well be sal­vaged by a bur­geon­ing and so far thriv­ing one (mar­i­juana).

Colorado res­i­dents and jour­nal­ists no doubt scoffed at the ded­i­ca­tion of mul­ti­ple em­ploy­ees to the cov­er­age of mar­i­juana, but Baca, at least as por­trayed here, is a pro­fes­sional — both po­lite and se­ri­ous, with good jour­nal­is­tic in­stincts and a sense of hu­mor. Dick­man fol­lows him and his staff as they in­ves­ti­gate pot cul­ture and re­port on le­gal and reg­u­la­tory is­sues. We learn how the Post helped break sto­ries about in­con­sis­tent lev­els of THC in “ed­i­bles” and the stricter regulation that en­sued. Baca vis­its Uruguay (where mar­i­juana is le­gal on a fed­eral level) in an at­tempt to de­ter­mine what, if any­thing, the U.S. can learn about the trade. The film does seem to want to steer clear of pot’s darker side, only briefly touch­ing on the death of a col­lege stu­dent who jumped off a ho­tel bal­cony af­ter eat­ing mar­i­juana-in­fused cook­ies.

No one would ex­pect a film about the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana to be thor­oughly somber, of course. Dick­man em­ploys a vaguely clichéd sound­track of reg­gae, dance, hip-hop, used most no­tice­ably in snick­erin­duc­ing shots of var­i­ous strains of buds set on furry ro­tat­ing pedestals. This de­vice is com­i­cal at first, but af­ter sev­eral rep­e­ti­tions, it be­gins to feel silly and ob­nox­iously repet­i­tive. When one such shot in­ter­rupts an in­ter­view of a mother us­ing mar­i­juana to treat her young son’s leukemia, it com­pro­mises the film’s at­tempts to be taken se­ri­ously.

Still, given that 58 per­cent of Amer­i­cans be­lieve mar­i­juana should be le­gal­ized and that the in­dus­try has made mil­lions of dol­lars for the state of Colorado, this film is a pleas­ant-enough be­gin­ning to an im­por­tant on­go­ing dis­cus­sion.

Sweet smell of suc­cess: The Cannabist’s Jake Browne

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