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by iF Magazine

"A delightfully dead-on marijuana documentary."
4 stars

Ron Mann's newest comic documentary is a 20th century history of the U.S. Government's hysteria over the selling, trading and using of marijuana. Particular its attempts -- using billions of U.S. taxpayer's dollars -- to fight a losing battle.

Mann has compiled a large amount of film -- including archival footage from movies, educational films, television news shows and government hearings. He too throws in a slew of music from each of the periods covered and uses a voice- over by Woody Harrelson (a known dope smoker) to chart the government's various strategies to criminalize the drug and figure out legal, preventative measures and lock up stoners.

Starting in the 1930's with Harry J. Anslinger, the first drug czar, the Federal Government has used numerous types of propaganda to scare people into believing marijuana was a dangerous drug. The anti-marijuana laws started with the racist premise that Mexican immigrants were bringing it in to cause trouble. Then each decade thereafter the government found a new way to demonize the drug.

In the 40's it was pegged as a drug that made people insanely hyper killers, in the 50's it was equated with a stepping stone to heroine, later it was lumped in with the Communist menace and eventually it was something that only antisocial losers smoked. Now the government, Mann humorously tells us, has decided it is something that is simply bad for you.

GRASS shows that at each turn the government's attempts were thwarted at first by scientists who showed in numerous experiment that it wasn't addictive and had an effect no worse than alcohol and then later by college students who used it daily in the 60's. Then the final dagger in the government's theories came about with its acceptability by the upper middle class whites, many of whom were respectful doctors and lawyers.

Nixon tried to quash it with unreasonable laws but failed since he ran into his own legal troubles, but then came Reagan in the 80's with the "Just Say No" campaign and later Clinton in the 90's whose administration has arrested more people for possession than all other administrations combined. "And," Mann seems to say, "to what effect?" None, except that since 1980 the Federal Government has spent $250 billion dollars and they still haven't got a clue about how to prevent people from smoking it.

Informative with plenty of laughs GRASS is guaranteed to make it on the college circuit and will fill theaters with former hippies, liberals, skeptics, free thinkers and tokers from San Francisco to Greenwich Village.

GRASS doesn't have any solutions about how the government should handle the marijuana situation and while director Mann doesn't necessarily condone smoking marijuana, he keeps his opinions at bay. Instead he seems to delight in all the fun footage he has compiled while pointing a finger at the clueless politicians and laughing.

Whether you light up or not GRASS is worth a look if for any other reason because you can get a good chuckle at how your tax payer dollars are being wasted by politicians who smoke cigarettes and drink dry martinis while they figure out why you shouldn't smoke a joint.-- Matt Langdon

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4562&reviewer=119
originally posted: 02/22/01 22:48:15
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  16-Jun-2000 (R)


  02-Nov-2000 (M)

Directed by
  Ron Mann

Written by
  Solomon Vesta

  Woody Harrelson
  Richard Nixon
  Harry S. Robins
  Douglass Smith

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