The Union: The Business Behind Getting High Brett Harvey

Just as the U.S. government hauls Canadian citizen Marc Emery to prison for selling hemp seeds by mail, a smart documentary hits DVD shelves detailing the seven-billion-dollar-a-year underground marijuana industry in BC. That industry, which profits growers, shippers and even police, is nicknamed by insiders "the Union." The Union isn't just another pot-advocacy film preaching to the converted but an intelligent, well-researched and entertaining doc that uses facts to challenge official (American) policy that prohibits weed. For example, grass destroys brain cells, right? Actually, in the original scientific study, high concentrations of pot smoke were pumped into the mouths of test monkeys, suffocating them. Another myth is that pot kills. The truth is that aspirin kills more people than grass, unless you count long-term obesity from getting the munchies. Director Brett Harvey has done his homework and imaginatively blends original interviews of Harvard medical professors, grow-op owners, former American cops and Vancouver policymakers with stock footage to make his point. On-camera host Adam Scorgie is articulate and charismatic, visiting a train converted into a grow-op buried deep below the BC Rockies or interviews naïve Americans in Times Square. The first third of The Union echoes films such as Ron Mann's Grass and makes clear where its sympathies lie. The history of marijuana and the law may be old hat to some viewers but Harvey presents this information via credible sources and lively editing. The Union shines when it dissects the underground economy, such as a visit to a basement grow-op. This section illustrates how carpenters, realtors and even bankers profit from the Union, and surprisingly argues that both large-scale weed dealers and law enforcement want to preserve existing marijuana laws so they stay in business. The Union also sheds light on the ongoing friction between Canadian and American governments, and recognizes the powerful pharmaceutical lobbyists that are suppressing knowledge of cannabis and its medical benefits (i.e., treating glaucoma and hepatitis). Unfortunately, the DVD comes with no special features. However, The Union remains essential viewing. (Peace Arch)