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Code of the West (2012)

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At a time when the country is rethinking its drug policies large and small, one state raises to the forefront of national attention. Once a pioneer in legalizing medical marijuana, the ... See full summary »

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Title: Code of the West (2012)

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At a time when the country is rethinking its drug policies large and small, one state raises to the forefront of national attention. Once a pioneer in legalizing medical marijuana, the state of Montana is poised to become the first in the nation to repeal its medical marijuana law. Set against the sweeping vistas of the Rockies, the steamy lamplight of marijuana grow houses, and the bustling halls of the State Capitol, CODE OF THE WEST follows the 2011 Montana State Legislature as it debates the fate of medical marijuana. This is the story of the many lives and fraught emotions tied to one of the most heated policy questions facing the country today. Written by Racing Horse Productions

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Well rounded doc on medical marijuana policy in Montana
15 October 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This documentary was screened at the 2012 New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth, NH. It is a well rounded perspective on the issue of medical marijuana laws in the state of Montana. It shows both sides of the emotional debate over legalizing medical marijuana. The pro and con forces got equal time as the story unfolded over a several year period. Whoever sees this is going to have their own opinion going in and I think the film makers while not completely hiding their bias do give fair treatment of the issue or at least it seemed so to me and the film was well made and I applaud the multi-year effort which required a lot of patience and foresight. One statistic that I would like to have seen is how changes in drug use in Montana compared to the rest of the country. The stat used in the film shows marijuana use among high school students in Montana declining by 4-6% after the law to legalize medical marijuana was introduced. While interesting, I think this stat would be even more interesting if shown in context with the rest of the country, perhaps contrasting those states with medical marijuana laws and those without. Another question that the film raises is whether it is preferable for patients to use morphine and other opiates to treat chronic pain or if marijuana might be a better, cheaper substitute that is less addictive and has fewer side effects. The explosion in the use of prescription opiates begs the question of whether pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in prohibiting the use of marijuana when it competes with their products. After the screening, a local representative of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a non-profit organization that is calling for an end to drug prohibition, said that it is his understanding that pharmaceutical companies do in fact actively lobby against medical marijuana for precisely this reason. The human side of the story is that several of the people involved in the medical marijuana trade in Montana have been convicted for violating federal law including one for a 90+ year sentence. Again, the film begs the question of the constitutionality of federal drug laws (alcohol prohibition required an amendment to the Constitution), states rights and Federalism. The film makers did an excellent job raising these questions and it is perhaps a testament to the quality of their work that it left me wanting to know more about this issue.

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