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THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY: 3 ½ STARS. “story of ulterior motives & exploitation”

The road to legal weed has been a twisty, turny journey with many strange detours along the way, including a Canadian study called Project Venus. A new film, “The Marijuana Conspiracy,” now on VOD, details the inner workings of a true-to-life experiment that assigned “toke times” to a group of female test subjects.

Set in 1972, the story begins as a group of young women are recruited to take part, as paid subjects, in a provincially funded cannabis study. The women were isolated and supplied with marijuana. In return a team of nurses and scientists studied their reactions and did brain, kidney and blood tests.

What the women didn’t know is that they are being used as shills, test subjects in a clinical investigation determined to prove that marijuana use will lead to lowered productivity.

When the 98-day study didn’t return the results the organizers hoped for, they secretly increased the THC levels in an attempt to prove their hypothesis that smoking weed will lead to some kind of reefer madness.

“The Marihuana Conspiracy” is a multi-pronged story. It’s an historical exposé of the unethical treatment of human subjects in a bogus medical study. In light of the pandemic, it’s also a timely comment on the efficacy of government studies in regards to health concerns. Most of all, and best of all, it is also a carefully constructed portrait of the friendship and resilience of the women.

Director and screenwriter Craig Pryce gives the ensemble cast time to establish their characters and allow the audience to understand why each and every one of them signed up for this unorthodox experiment. What could have been an exercise in finger pointing instead has a deep core of humanity. As we follow these characters they grow and adapt to their circumstances, always with an eye to the future. Solid performances from Tymika Tafari, Julia Sarah Stone, Morgan Kohan, Kyla Avril Young and Alanna Bale and carefully curated 70s period details bring the individual stories to life. Marie Ward’s performance as Nurse Alice, imagine a Nurse Ratched type, has a nice, unexpected arc that adds layers of texture to an already detailed story.

“The Marijuana Conspiracy” mixes and matches docu-drama with humour and even a taste a of horror to tell an interesting story of ulterior motives, exploitation and regulation all bound together with empathy and just a bit of intrigue.

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