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‘Weed the People’ makes powerful, poignant case for medical marijuana

Charles Ealy

“Weed the People,” a new documentary that premiered at South by Southwest on Sunday, looks at the healing properties of cannabis and its anti-cancer properties – and at how everyday people are making all sorts of efforts to get it to help themselves or their children.

One of key players in the documentary, directed by Abby Epstein, is the no-nonsense, blunt-spoken Mara Gordon, founder of Aunt Zelda’s, a nonprofit collective in California that helps chronically ill patients maximize the benefits of cannabis. She describes herself as a Jewish Texan from Dallas, although she lives in Northern California today.

Gordon says she went in for a routine surgery in 1999 and came out of the hospital with bacterial spinal meningitis. She used marijuana to help her reduce the number of medications she had to take, and this led her to experiment with ways to use marijuana to help others.

She came up with recipes that used cannabis-infused oils and then founded Aunt Zelda’s.

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The documentary follows her and others as they try to figure out the right doses for those with cancer, since many people have widely varying reactions to the treatment. But one thing seems rather clear: Cannabis has helped many folks not only deal with cancer but also live longer.

It’s heartbreaking to watch some of the individual cases, especially those involving small children.

When Gordon agrees to help various families, she carefully explains that she’s not a doctor. She says that whatever is going to happen will happen, and that cannabis isn’t a cure-all. But Gordon is offering families a way to cope with the cancer – and maybe extend and improve lives.

Like many documentaries, “Weed the People” has an agenda: that laboratory studies are increasingly touting the benefits of cannabis in treating cancer – and that the government should allow more people access to the drug.

Undoubtedly, not everyone will agree that medical marijuana should be available. But “Weed the People” makes a powerful argument.

“Weed the People” had its world premiere on Sunday at SXSW. It screens again at 6:30 p.m. March 12 at the Alamo South and at 4:45 p.m. March 14 at the Alamo South. Grade: B