Thursday, October 05, 2006

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

There is no other situation quite like that of medical cannabis. It is controversial and even condemned. Yet many patients have found no more effective medicine. According to Dr. Lester Grinspoon of the Harvard Medical School, “Medical marijuana is here to stay.”

Medical cannabis and the people who use it, recommend its use, distribute and regulate it, have been shrouded in mystery as well as controversy—until now.

Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story is a one hour documentary film, produced and directed by Humboldt State University film professor Ann Alter with a collaborative team of HSU students. It will be presented to the public for the first time in a free sneak preview at the Minor Theatre in Arcata on Thursday, October 5. The film begins promptly at 6 PM, and will be followed by a question and answer session.

Dr. Frank Lucido: "Dispensaries serve an important function. Most patients cannot grow their own medicine..." Posted by Picasa

Obtaining marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation to treat a number of serious diseases and conditions is now legal in several states, but only California law provides for distributing medical marijuana to patients. Yet all of these state laws conflict with federal law—and the Supreme Court has yet to decide the fate of dispensing cannabis.

In researching the subject of medical cannabis, director Ann Alter found that there is little information about how medical marijuana is being distributed in California, and there are no other documentary films on the subject.

“So this seems like an important story to tell,” Alter said. “Especially because we’re capturing a moment in history. We don’t know how long these dispensaries will exist.”

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Harvard Medical School: "Medical marijuana is here to stay..." Posted by Picasa

In Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story, a number of patients describe why they need medical marijuana, and their struggles to obtain it. The long history of marijuana’s medical uses is summarized but, Alter warns, “We are not trying to present a balanced view on the legitimacy of medical cannibis. The legitimacy is assumed in the documentary.” Instead the focus is on the patients, the caregivers, the doctors and the public officials wrestling with the complex issues resulting from conflicting laws. These “voices from the inside” present a story not heard until now.

Valerie Corral, co-founder of WAMM. Posted by Picasa

Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story travels to five medical cannabis dispensaries, each different in important respects:

In San Francisco, Act-Up San Francisco and the San Francisco Patients’ Cooperative demonstrate the variety that exists within retail model dispensaries.

In Humboldt County, Humboldt Patient Resource Center of Arcata gives us an unprecedented look at a clinic style dispensary with an in-house organic garden.

On the eastern side of the state, the Tehama Health Collective offers a different model.

In Santa Cruz, WAMM (Wo/Man’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana ) is the center of a unique community of chronically and terminally ill people, where money never changes hands in medical cannabis distribution.

WAMM is also important because a federal raid precipitating a law suit by Santa Cruz governmental officials has led to a possibly defining Supreme Court case.

Humboldt District Attorney Paul Gallegos: "California needs to wrestle, and this country needs to wrestle with the fact of whether we're going to continue to outlaw marjuana. It certainly has its problems...We have much greater problems." Posted by Picasa

Among those interviewed are Dr. Lester Grinspoon of the Harvard Medical School, one of the world’s acknowledged experts on the uses of drugs; Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos; Connor Hawkins, founder of the Humboldt Patient Resource Center; Hilary McQuie of Americans for Safe Access; Valerie and Mike Corral, founders of Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz, and officials of the Santa Cruz county government who sued the federal government.

They talk about history, the law, the daily realities of recommending, obtaining, dispensing and using medical cannabis, as well as the practicalities only they must face: questions of access, and of determining the quality and safety of medical marijuana, and the appropriate dosages and delivery systems for a variety of medical symptoms, diseases and conditions.

Connor Hawkins, Humboldt Patient Rights Clinic. Posted by Picasa

The Educational Experience

This project began when HSU alumnus Connor Hawkins of the Humboldt Patient Resource Center saw a previous documentary film by Ann Alter, Shifting the Paradigm: From Control to Respect, and offered funding for a film examining medical cannabis. After a year of research and preparation, Alter designed this project as an educational experience in documentary filmmaking for HSU students.

“I looked for a part of the story that we could structure within an academic setting," Alter said. "Students signed up for the course in making a documentary film without knowing the subject, so that they wouldn’t be drawn to it for the wrong reasons. The students who stayed with it put in a lot of hours. They were so dedicated and committed. It’s been a very enriching process for me.”

Some students worked on the film for as much as a year, including Ben Shaw and Steve Spain, credited with editing and principal photography.

“At first we were talking about a short film,” Shaw recalled. “But as we got into it, we started to realized the depth of the subject. I was amazed by the level of professionalism that evolved—the ability of students with no prior experience in making a documentary to come together to become a real film crew.”

“Some of us worked on this on our own time because it was so fulfilling,” Spain said. “Especially towards the end, it felt like we were making a real movie, not as a classroom project or for a grade, but because we wanted to do it, and do it well. This was the most intense educational experience of my life.”

Though both students came away from the experience convinced of the legitimacy of medical cannabis, “just because you acknowledge the medical benefits doesn’t mean you’re advocating the use of the drug, “ Shaw said.

Deborah, a patient at WAMM: "People that need medical marijuana need safe access...and safe marijuana." Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 25, 2006


A FREE sneak preview of the new documentary film, Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story will be held Thursday, October 5 at the Minor Theatre in Arcata, beginning PROMPTLY at 6 PM so COME EARLY!

Please join the discussion afterwards in the theatre with director Ann Alter, HSU professor of film, and HSU film students who collaborated on the first documentary to examine the dispensing of medical marijuana in California and the issues surrounding it.

The film includes interviews with patients as well as distributors, experts and public officials around the state, including Connor Hawkins of the Humboldt Patient Resource Center, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos, and Valerie Corral of the Santa Cruz organization WAMM, currently the center of a Supreme Court case which may decide the legal fate of medical cannabis in the U.S.

This is the first public screening of this one-hour documentary, and no further screenings are scheduled. Please come early—the film starts promptly at 6 PM.

Hilary McQuie, Americans for Safe Access: "I think we have this wonderful historical moment of these dispensaries that are existing in a quasi-legal space..." Posted by Picasa

Film Credits

Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story

Directed & Produced by
Ann Alter

Editing & Principal Photography
Ben Shaw
Steve Spain

Animation & Graphics

Erik Schjeide

Principal Researcher
Lisa Clarke

Collaborative Team of Humboldt State University Students
Don Chia Helen Sanderson
Lisa Clarke
Ben Shaw
Matt Compton
Steve Spain
Elsa Contreras
Arlo Starr
Everson Corrigan
Mary Sugar Stewart
Jeffrey Jackson

Andrea Lindsay, Act Up. Posted by Picasa

Additional Researchers
Don Chia
Jeffrey Jackson
Matt Compton
Helen Sanderson

Additional Photography
Matt Compton
Maria Matteoli
Everson Corrigan
Brian Vernor

Ann Alter
Matt Compton
Don Chia
Steve Spain
Lisa Clarke

Dave Hinzman
Towner Shrewsberry
Dan Van Bebber

Narration Script
Ann Alter

Script Assistant
Steve Spain

Principal Narrator
Bernadette Cheyne

Additional Narrator
Donald Forrest
Stan Mott

Narration Recording
Donald Forrest

Post Production Sound & Mix
Erik Schjeide

Color Correction
Ben Shaw

DVD Mastering
Erik Schjeide

Rev. Randi Webster, SF Patients' Coop. Posted by Picasa

Major Funding Provided by
Humboldt Patient Resource Center

Additional Funding
HSU Research & Creative Project Grant

Additional Support
Department of Theatre, Film & Dance
Department of Sociology
Humboldt State University

Dispensaries Featured
10th Street Compassion and Care Center
Alternative Herbal Health Services
Act Up San Francisco
San Francisco Patients’ Cooperative
Humboldt Patient Resource Center
Tehama Health Collective
Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana

Archival Images

US Pharmacopeial Convention
The Pharmacopeia of the US
Sixth Decennial Revision, 1880
12th Decennial Revision, 1942
Reefer Madness, 1938
National Archives & Records Admin.
Waves Forest A. Lee Bennett Jr.

Stefan, a patient at WAMM. Posted by Picasa

Special Thanks
Connor Hawkins
Valerie Leveroni Corral
Michael Corral
Jason Browne
Wayne Justmann
Rev. Randelyn Webster
Andrea Lindsay
Chief Randal Mendosa
Paul Gallegos
Terry Goggin
Dr. Lester Grinspoon
Dr. Frank Lucido
Americans for Safe Access
Mardi Wormhoudt
Mike Rotkin
Dennis Peron
Bill Tomlin

Jason Browne, Tehama Health Collective Posted by Picasa

Additional Thanks

Michelle Heckman
Daniel Rodrigues
Leslie Giarard-Bushman
Diane Dias
Stefan Dorman
Sean Wharton
Ronald Baum
Daniel Bear
Sherri Paris
Deborah Silverknight
Ritika Aggarwal
David Cavin
Alex Jeremias
Leona Powell
John Quigley
Stephen Richter
Jared Russell
Olga Baeza
Elena Rivera
Charlie Phillips
Bill Smock
Dana Peleg
Seth Prettol
Dawn Lerch
Gerald Neto
Rusty Owens
Michael Barbitta
Stephanie DeLucca
James Bridgewater
James Brown
Nellie Shea
John Studulski
Kathleen Nabozny
Gregory Ledbetter
Jack Flinn
Caren Woodson
Hilary McQuie
Jeff Jones
Dr. Harvey Feldman
Leslie Thomas
Kris Hermes
Mariellen Jurkovich
LindaAnne Cummings
Kristine Shorey
Sara Melton
Bevan Trembly
Eddy Lepp
Ryan Mann-Hamilton
Redwood Roots Farm
Roxanne Rothery
Rhode Island Spains
Bob Snyder
Suzan Logwood

and many people who wish to remain anonymous

Dedicated to the brave people who cultivate and distribute medical cannabis.

© 2006 Ann Alter

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Ann Alter

Controversy and personal vision have been used to define the work of independent filmmaker Ann Alter. With five award-winning titles to her credit, Alter’s film, Team Red (16mm, 14-minutes, 2000) had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, won a Silver Medal at the Brno 16 International Film Festival (Czech Republic), was awarded a Special Mention at the Siena International Short Film Festival (Italy) and a Certificate of Merit at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Team Red explores the difficult question: can murder be moral? The film has screened in 11 countries and is broadcasted on SBS Television Network of Australia twice annually.

Premiering at the Berlin International Film Festival was Alter’s No Need to Repent (16mm, 27-minutes, 1989). A documentary portrait about an openly lesbian Protestant minister, the film won a Silver Apple Award at the National Educational Film Festival and a Short Documentary Award at the Athens International Film Festival. The film screened in seven countries and in film festivals through the US.

The New York Museum of Modern Art Film Collection has a copy of what many consider to be a shocking film – see dick run (16mm, 14-minutes, 1987). A short nontraditional narrative, this political satire pokes fun at film and television's fondness for fragmenting women's bodies. Through a claustrophobic visual and aural style, see dick run portrays a unique view of masculinity. In addition to screening at festivals across the country, the film has received Honorable Mentions from the Sinking Creek Film Festival, the Oswego International Film Festival and the San Francisco Art Institute Film Festival.

Alter's timely account of a water crisis in rural America, Ten Miles to Fetch Water: A Crisis in the West Virginia Coalfield (3/4" video, 28-minutes, 1989) has been broadcast by public television in West Virginia and Ohio. The documentary received an Honorable Mention at the Sinking Creek Film Festival and was presented in Germany at the Okomedia International Ecological Film Festival.

In addition to her independent work, Alter works collaboratively with university students. In the documentary, Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story (DV, 57-minutes, 2006), voices from inside discuss the practices and issues involved in distributing medical cannabis. Shifting the Paradigm: From Control to Respect (16mm, 41-minutes, 1999) documents the battered women’s movement on the cusp of change as women and men discuss what it will take for us to reach the ultimate goal of zero tolerance for domestic violence. Air Fare (16mm, 22-minutes, 1995), a short documentary exploring the people behind the voices of a unique California public radio station, received a Bronze Apple Award at the National Educational Media Network Film Competition.

Alter has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film from Ohio University. In 1986 she started her own production company, Asymmetry Productions. Alter is a Film Professor and Head of the Cinema Program at Humboldt State University in Northern California.

For further information on Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story, including information on obtaining DVD copies, contact Ann Alter at 707.826.5495.