Published Apr 24, 2015When Ricardo Baca was named the Denver Post's pot editor in the days following Colorado's legalization of marijuana in 2014, he was regarded by many to have been assigned a cushy position that consisted of little more than getting high. But as the amiable documentary Rolling Papers makes clear, Baca and his team of journalists are a surprisingly clear-headed and knowledgeable group devoted to diligently reporting on a nascent market with little knowledge of what to expect.
It's a canny decision for director Mitch Dickman to embed himself within the Denver Post staff, as it allows his cameras to capture the developing stories that accompany legalization as they unfold. After a young Colorado man with marijuana in his system leaps to his death early in the year, it almost even appears as if there might be grave consequences to this experiment.
But perhaps the film's greatest weakness is the mere fact that, rather predictably, nothing catastrophic or even all that dramatic happens as a result of the state embracing pot. While investigations into marijuana edibles not being as potent as advertised on the package and snapshots of parents attempting to raise children while also maintaining their buzz are not without their merits, they're also hardly the most exciting stories to follow.
At least there are the characters we meet along the way to keep us interested. Baca himself is committed to providing top-notch content that could potentially shape how legalization is viewed, but also takes great pleasure in gabbing over the phone with guest contributor Whoopi Goldberg. Then there are his pot reviewers, including a jack-of-all-trades who is not only doing photography and video editing for the Cannabis Cup, but also has an entry of his own in the competition.
It may not delve much into the financial implications of what this could potentially mean for the state or even the country, but the documentary does take valuable time to examine the medicinal value that marijuana has had in reducing seizures in children. It also allows for a brief tour of Uruguay, where Baca travels to examine the effects of the country's recent legalization of marijuana and hopefully land an interview with the President. In a disappointing turn of events that's indicative of the documentary's entire troubles of probing into the untested virtues and pitfalls of legalization, he finds that people there have actually had the prospect of legal marijuana forced upon them by politicians, rather than the other way around.
It's a brave new world with little precedent, but given the rather seamless transition in Colorado chronicled here, it's surprising that it's taken this long to give it a shot.
(Denver Documentary Collective)