When you are getting ready to watch a film in the theaters, you have your usual gear: popcorn, a soda, maybe some candy. If you’re really feeling adventurous, why not slip on those flimsy 3D glasses, and look like a lamer version of Bob Dylan? What about picking up some pot before the film? If you live somewhere that has legalized weed, such as Canada, you may be able to do this by popping over to somewhere like CannaCabana before you go to see the movie. However, in America, unless you’re bringing your own, this typically does not happen; however, at the theatrical premiere of Mile High: The Comeback of Cannabis, that is exactly what happened. Director Anthony Hashem and co-creator Adam Hartle stood outside of the Mayan theater, asking passersby to come in, enticing them with free (and completely legal, thanks to Amendment 64) marijuana to sample. I mention this entire advertising campaign not to thumb my nose at anyone who missed the premiere (and missed out on some stellar free reefer), but because this simple, righteous act of giving people marijuana, is exactly what the film attempts to embody.
Mile High’s premise is simple enough: the film follows comedian Adam Hartle as he makes his pilgrimage from Florida to Colorado, in the days before the November 2012 election. During his visit, Hartle sits down with people from all walks of life, to discuss the rationale behind the famous Amendment 64; you know, the one that legalized recreational marijuana and industrial hemp in Colorado. Interspersed with Hartle’s meandering around the state are short clips of his stand-up routines, which tend to mirror the questions he asks his various interviewees.
I was impressed by the variety of people Hartle was able to sit down with for the project. From doctors, to medicinal marijuana patients, to eccentric writers, to drunks in LoDo at 2AM, to former gubernatorial hopeful and personal liberty advocate Tom Tancredo, it seems everyone in Mile High had to weigh in on why it only makes sense to legalize. Apart from the interviews the gentlemen were getting, the film also follows Hashem and Hartle on their bud-fueled trip through Colorado; where, for some reason, they end up talking to a plant (several times), and lose their minds over a dead fox somewhere up in the mountains. Mix in some indie music, and montage shots of the notable Colorado countryside, and you’ve got yourself a documentary.
Hartle winds up at an election party for supporters of 64, and the rest is history. “The world is changing. The world is changing. Get ready for it, America,” he says, as the place erupts into uproarious cheering, and sophomoric chanting of “Sixty-four! Sixty-four!” Finally, the film picks up one more time one year later, on January 1st, 2014, where Hartle and Hashem are waiting in line at 3D Cannabis Center (a place I thoroughly enjoy), and purchase the first legal recreational joints in American history since prohibition. Cue more smoking, more driving, more montages, more indie music, and boom: it’s a wrap.
The movie is extremely heavy handed with its message: cannabis is awesome, and if you want to smoke it, you should be able to. Also, marijuana is way safer than any other drugs, because it has never killed anyone in the history of humanity. As the film says, “The most dangerous thing about marijuana, is marijuana prohibition.” I guess Colorado might be an odd spot to debut the movie. Sure, it all took place here, and the film does capture very eloquently the excitement and fear of the people leading up to the election, but we voted for 64, remember? We aren’t the people needing convincing here.
While it was Hashem and Hartle’s first shot at a documentary, there were some glaring technical issues that really took away from the film. For instance, the sound would randomly fade, chop, or distort in random intervals. The cuts during interviews were choppy and unnatural (oftentimes focusing on Hartle’s mostly-stoned, polite nodding to people’s responses). There was an entire interview with a sufferer of fibromyalgia that was completely out of focus. Unfortunately for the film-making duo, the film also loses a bit of focus as it plays on. Inexplicably, for about two minutes, Hartle begins a rant about marriage equality (why?), and then begins criticizing President Obama for not being “black” enough.
So, I know much of this sounds negative to the film-maker’s endeavors, but in all honestly, I did enjoy the film. It’s fun. It attempts to tackle marijuana legalization in an amusing and humorous way. Hartle is a very talented stand-up comedian, and that shows through the clips they selected for Mile High. I worry, however, about who the intended audience is for this film. I chuckled through several of the personal interactions between Hartle and Hashem throughout the film (as contrived as they may or may not have been), but what about someone who is staunchly opposed to marijuana legalization? I worry that the film’s message, as heavy and constant as it may have been for the first hour or so of the film, might be weakened by the silly, often eye-rolling antics of the men throughout the film. On the other hand, the guys are extremely personable, and I found myself rooting for them and their cause, despite the fact that I knew how it all unfolded.
Ultimately, Mile High is an interesting examination on marijuana legalization in Colorado, and manages to display just how widespread the support is for recreational weed. It dispels the myth very quickly that there is only one kind of person who support legalization – the 20something who plays hackie-sack, watches Scoobie-Doo, and accentuates his speech with “duuuuude,” and “maaaaaaan.” The supporters of personal liberty are everywhere, and I think that is part of what makes this film shine. I potentially see this as an inspiring message to those on the fence in other states, looking to make change, and looking for ninety minutes of facts and figures to back themselves up. Or, I could recommend it to my Colorado friends, who can sit back, burn one down, and laugh cleverly to themselves, “Oh yeah! These are all the reasons why I love weed!”