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8 Must-Watch Cannabis Documentaries On Netflix

Not sure what to watch tonight? Why not make it a weed-themed documentary? Netflix has a whole host of shows and films that cover the cannabis industry from a variety of angles. Keep reading to discover seven of the best documentaries the streaming platform has to offer.

LOVE WEED? NETFLIX HAS YOU COVERED

Netflix-and-chill takes on whole new meaning thanks to the streaming platform’s growing volume of weed-focussed documentaries. If you’ve ever wanted to discover the origins of 420, find out the potential of medical cannabis, or explore the darker side of marijuana cultivation, now is your chance! Line up a few carefully rolled blunts and get comfy, because there is a fantastic range of shows on Netflix that cater to virtually all tastes.

Below you will find a selection of some of the best offerings, and while they are not everything Netflix has in its catalogue, they do cover a broad range of topics. However, depending on where you live, different shows may be available. If you cannot find one of the documentaries listed, type “cannabis” in the search bar on Netflix to find out what your region does have available.

8 OF THE BEST CANNABIS DOCUMENTARY FILMS AND SERIES

WEED THE PEOPLE

Weed the People is a documentary that brings the issue of cannabis legality centre stage. Following the lives of several different children, we are shown how, in certain cases, cannabis has truly been life-saving. The power of this documentary lies in its use of real people living through unthinkable circumstances—circumstances made easier by the medicinal value of cannabis. While the footage is intended to provoke a strong emotional response toward cannabis prohibition, the documentary delivers a simple message—more research is desperately needed. It is a message that is not only supported by the families documented, but by the doctors and experts involved.

GRASS IS GREENER

In recent years, cannabis legalization has spread throughout the United States. Marijuana hasn’t always been so widely excepted, and Grass Is Greener takes an objective look at the history of cannabis prohibition and its lasting effects. It is no secret that marijuana convictions disproportionately affect minority communities, specifically young black men, but this is something those outside of the US may not be aware of.

Grass Is Greener helps shed light on America’s complicated relationship with cannabis while using celebrity guests to help explain the situation. Not only do you get to learn more about the rise of cannabis culture, but you get to hear how the plant has affected names like Snoop Dogg, Damian Marley, and Cypress Hill.

EXPLAINED: WEED

The Explained series on Netflix is an attempt by Vox Media to answer questions you’ve always wanted answering. Topics include why we get tattoos, whether we use too many exclamation marks (really. ), and most importantly, the history of cannabis. Only twenty minutes long, the “Weed” episode is excellent for those who want a bite-sized update on all things cannabis. Learn where cannabis strains come from, how the hemp plant has evolved over the centuries, and how cannabinoids work—all on your commute to work.

SUPER HIGH ME

If you ever watched the documentary Super Size Me way back in 2004, then you’ll be familiar with the format of Super High Me. This time, however, there is a slight difference. Instead of consuming only junk food, the comedian Doug Benson smokes weed for 30 days straight before taking a range of tests to see how he was affected. Although technically a spoiler, Doug is still very much alive and well, so at least we know that 30 days of weed doesn’t kill you. To find out what does happen to your body, make sure you add Super High Me to your watch list.

INSIDE MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Inside Medical Marijuana is National Geographic’s take on the world of legal marijuana. Throughout the 45-minute special, they take a look at the science behind cannabis and detail some of the lives affected by its use. The documentary also presents a compelling argument of old versus new. There are those who have dedicated their lives to the advocacy of medical marijuana, but there are also individuals who see the legalization of cannabis as a great money-making opportunity.

While it is too early to tell how legal marijuana will play out, Inside Medical Marijuana does an excellent job of setting the scene for what the cannabis industry might look like in the future.

THE LEGEND OF 420

“420” has become the international reference for all things cannabis-related, not just among stoners, but mainstream media too. The Legend of 420 aims to give viewers an all-encompassing overview of marijuana right from its initial legalization in the American state of California to its current applications on a global scale.

Interestingly, it also tries to present both sides of the argument for and against legalization, although it doesn’t take long to see that the arguments against are grounded in a significant amount of misinformation. The Legend of 420 is an ideal film for those who know very little about cannabis, as it gives a complete overview of the topic. Even if you do know your OG Kush from your Sour Diesel, the doc still has plenty to offer.

MURDER MOUNTAIN

Presenting a side of cannabis cultivation many of us don’t think about, Murder Mountain is a series that highlights the growing number of missing people in the cannabis capital of America, Humboldt County. The Emerald Triangle is a haven for large-scale cannabis operations, and as the show suggests, potentially something more sinister.

It is important to point out that while there is plenty of factual substance to Murder Mountain, the show is heavily edited to be as dramatic as possible. There is no doubt that cannabis has become big business with a lot of money at stake, but whether it is as sinister as the show depicts—well that’s for you to decide.

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ROLLING PAPERS

Canada’s decision to legalize all forms of cannabis has changed the world forever. Not just for Canadians, but big businesses too. Rolling Papers follows a struggling newspaper as it decides to dedicate a column to the cannabis community. Like Murder Mountain, the documentary has a hefty amount of editing and special effects, which, while entertaining, do at times detract from the documentary’s main premise. Rolling Papers does highlight an issue that is still prevalent no matter where you are in the world—cannabis is still a highly controversial topic, despite how far it has come.

Ancient Cannabis ‘Burial Shroud’ Discovered in Desert Oasis

For the first time, archaeologists have unearthed well-preserved cannabis plants, which were placed on a corpse some 2,500 years ago.

Archaeologists are hailing the discovery of an “extraordinary cache” of cannabis found in an ancient burial in northwest China, saying that the unique find adds considerably to our understanding of how ancient Eurasian cultures used the plant for ritual and medicinal purposes.

In a report in the journal Economic Botany, archaeologist Hongen Jiang and his colleagues describe the burial of an approximately 35-year-old adult man with Caucasian features in China’s Turpan Basin. The man had been laid out on a wooden bed with a reed pillow beneath his head.

In an unprecendented discovery, the ancient cannabis plants were discovered in a complete and well-preserved state.

Thirteen cannabis plants, each up to almost three feet long, were placed diagonally across the man’s chest, with the roots oriented beneath his pelvis and the tops of the plants extending from just under his chin, up and alongside the left side of his face. (Read how Eurasian gold artifacts tell the tale of drug-fueled rituals.)

Radiocarbon dating of the tomb’s contents indicates that the burial occurred approximately 2,400 to 2,800 years ago.

This discovery adds to a growing collection of archaeological evidence showing that cannabis consumption was “very popular” across the Eurasian steppe thousands of years ago, says Jiang.

A Truly Unique Burial

The burial is one of 240 graves excavated at the Jiayi cemetery in Turpan, and is associated with the Subeixi culture (also known as the Gushi Kingdom) that occupied the area between roughly 3,000 to 2,000 years ago. At the time, Turpan’s desert oasis was an important stop on the Silk Road.

Cannabis plant parts have been found in a few other Turpan burials, most notably in a contemporaneous burial in nearby Yanghai cemetery discovered nearly a decade ago, which contained close to two pounds of cannabis seeds and powdered leaves.

This is the first time archaeologists have recovered complete cannabis plants, as well as the first incidence of their use as a “shroud” in a human burial.

West of Turpan, cannabis seeds have also been found in first millennium B.C. Scythian burials in southern Siberia, including one of a woman who possibly died of breast cancer. Archaeologists suspect she may have been using cannabis in part to ease her symptoms. (Read “Will Marijuana for Sick Kids Get Government to Rethink Weed?”)

However, this is the first time ever that archaeologists have recovered complete cannabis plants, as well as the first incidence of their use as a “shroud” or covering in a human burial, says Jiang.

Locally Grown

Since previous cannabis finds in Turpan burials consisted only of plant parts, it has been difficult for researchers to determine whether the plant was grown locally or obtained through trade with neighboring regions.

The plants in the Jiayi burial, however, were found lying flat on the man’s body, leading archaeologists to conclude that the cannabis had been fresh—and therefore local—when it was harvested for the burial.

In addition, while nearly all of the flowering heads of the 13 female plants had been cut off before they were placed on the body, a few that remained were nearly ripe and contained some immature fruit, suggesting that the plants were collected—and that the burial occurred—in late summer.

A detail from one of the ancient cannabis plants, showing the resinous “hairs” that contain psychoactive compounds.

The Secret Life of Pot Plants

Knowing the ins and outs of cannabis communication can produce better buds.

The Secret Soul of Pot Plants

It was one of the world’s greatest thinkers, Aristotle, who reasoned that, as living entities, plants possessed a “soul,” specifically a “nutritive soul”—not as a spiritual state, but rather the quality that makes the plant “alive.”

As the centuries have passed, gardeners and botanists alike have come to realize a plant’s soul, what constitutes its essence, is more complex than being limited to experiencing growth, nutrition and reproduction. The plant itself can undergo and register stress and relaxation, communicate and perceive stimuli ranging from the human voice to music—and plants can even learn and remember. Such sophistication cannot necessarily be explained by mere genetic or biochemical mechanisms, as posited by an associated field of study dubbed “plant neurobiology” (more on that subject to follow).

Circle of Life, Cannabis Style

As outlined by Honest Marijuana, there are seven stages to a pot plant’s life cycle, some of which will be referred to in this article, so’s here a quick run-through refresher course:

1. It all begins with the seed, which consists of the cannabis plant in embryonic form contained within a protective husk.

2. When the seed is placed in soil, it enters the germination stage.

3. Cannabis reaches seedling status when initially, two rather generic, un-pot like leaves emerge to begin the process of absorbing sunlight to allow the still embryonic plant to break free of its casing buried beneath dirt. Those more ordinary appearing leaves are soon joined by a pair that resemble the traditional marijuana leaf, with its often pronounced serrated edges.

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4. Stem thickness with new nodes for increased leaves, and eventually, branches (why do you think we call them “trees”?), marks the vegetation stage. It’s here where the cannabis cultivator can determine the sex of the plant. For example, more complex branching can indicate that you’ve got a female, while a male will sexually mature faster as its purpose is to produce pollen needed to fertilize the female and produce seeds—if that is the gardener’s desired goal. Otherwise, the female is left celibate in order to achieve her own purpose of producing flowers.

5. Once it’s approximately 42 days old, pre-flowering is when the plant begins to show off its individual characteristics and peculiarities, as cannabis can take anywhere from one to five months to enter pre-flowering, which is quite a disparity. Here is when the female plant focuses her energies and resources on entering the critical stage of…

6. Flowering, in which the plant fulfills its dank destiny, the reason it was put here on this planet, to fully flourish with juicy, sticky, tasty buds.

7. Harvesting is when the cannabis plant meets its final destiny, as it’s transformed from living entity to a collection of resources, some intended for human consumption—to feed, intoxicate and medicate, with other parts of the plant intended for resources and energy. It’s also the point where the gardener with good intentions is filled with appreciation at this miracle marijuana for providing such a bounty.

And any seeds that were produced in a given pot plant’s life start the cycles running anew.

The Intelligent Life of Pot Plants

As documented in a TEDTalks video, Stefano Mancuso, founder of the aforementioned plant neurobiology, discussed his field of study, the purpose of which is to analyze how plants perceive and respond to their environment in an integrated manner.

Plants don’t merely sense and respond to light and water but also temperatures, toxins, soil levels, nutrients, threatening herbivores—and even chemical signals from other plants. And the flowering herb we happen to call marijuana processes information, raw data, just as other plants do. Again, cannabis and other forms of floral life communicate and even possess a kind of memory.

These and similar issues were also detailed in a 2013 New Yorker article entitled “The Intelligent Plant,” which featured highly intriguing arguments that can certainly be explored in the context of cannabis. This piece was written by Michael Pollan, who correctly notes that Stefano’s “neurobiology” is a misnomer due to the fact plants don’t actually possess neurons, let alone brain tissue. However, that does not diminish the worthiness of investigation of that particular field.

As profiled in 2013 by Quanta Magazine, University of California-Davis’ Dr. Richard Karban studied plant communication and at that point tabulated 40 out of 48 studies had substantiated that plants detecting airborne signals emitted by damaging herbivores responded in kind by producing chemical deterrents.That same year, Professor Ted Farmer of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland conducted research that reported plants emit pulses with voltage-based signaling that parallels the animal nervous system. Farmer has advocated communication between plants on subjects like combating predators since 1990, as noted by Wired.

Even more intriguing, neurotransmitters, such as those that play a fundamental role in human intoxication, like dopamine, are also found in plants. While the specifics of that have not been fully determined, a 2013 study published in Plant Signaling & Behavior found a correlation between dopamine and root length and dry weight of soybeans.

Per National Geographic, research from the University of Western Australia demonstrated evidence that a plant not only “remembered,” but it retained that “memory” for a month. The unorthodox testing was conducted with the “sensitive plant,” the Mimosa pudica, which recoils in a defensive position when its leaves are even slightly brushed against.

Led by associate professor Monica Gagliano, the study had the Mimosa plants in pots being dropped on a sliding rail to “scare” them, but without causing damage. After dropping them 60 times, the plants no longer recoiled because they “remembered” there was nothing to fear and that they wouldn’t actually be hurt when dropped.

Communicating with Cannabis

With this section, we’ve arrived at the central premise of the piece—whether human interaction, particularly of a positive bent, through stimuli such as speech and music, can influence the growth of plants, and in this context, increasing the yield and/or quality of the flowers of a cannabis plant.

As far back as the 1950s, the Botany Department at India’s Annamalai University held research that discovered a 20 percent increase in height and a massive 72 percent gain in biomass from plants who were treated to tunes. A decade later, Canadian scientist Eugene Canby saw plants up their production by as much as 66 percent when serenaded by the timeless music of Bach.

As reported by Westword, accomplished cannabis gardener Elias Tempton, who cultivates for Sticky Buds dispensary in Denver, plays classical music 24-hours-a-day for his cannabis plants. Legendary Polish composer Chopin dominates the playlist, providing aural vibrations to the plants eight to 10 hours every day. Interestingly, Tempton, who obviously has thought carefully on the subject, does not believe it is the music itself that the plants are responding to, but rather the calming emotional state experienced by the grower listening to the classical music.

Though, as he noted during an interview with FOX 31, his plants exposed to music experienced increases in strength and the flowers had “surprisingly high” percentages of THC.

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That theory certainly seems plausible to professional cannabis cultivator David Bonvillain, founder of Colorado’s Loveland Molecular Labs, who disclosed to High Times during an interview for an article on an entirely different subject that he, himself, plays Mozart in stereo in the hydro grow-rooms for his cannabis crops. Bonvillain believes there is science behind plants being able to experience, communicate and connect with human beings.

However, it could be the actual vibrations created by sound that the weed is responding to, as a 2014 study conducted at the University of Missouri reported. Per the Washington Post, plants were played the sounds of a caterpillar chewing leaves, and as the sound waves vibrated the leaves, the plants responded by producing chemicals to ward off the predators (despite facing no actual danger). This readying process is known as “priming” and is not unlike how our own human immune system functions. While the precise mechanism by which plants perceive the sounds has yet to be determined, this is still an intriguing find in this field of study nonetheless.

Exposing cannabis to music can begin as early as the germination stage, as noted by Cannabis Info. In fact, the TV program Myth Busters exposed growing green bean plants to a diverse selection of audio stimuli, endlessly looped on stereos, ranging from heavy metal and classical music. The result? All the grow-rooms that were filled with audio produced better results than the control group with no audio.

You might (not) be surprised to find out that pot likes to rock—plants responded most positively when played death metal of all things, with classical music also performing better than other types of music and speech.

Of course, there is also the physical benefit of “talking” to your plants, providing them with the growth-boosting, enriching CO2 you exhale with each breath, as the plant likewise provides us with oxygen; so there is demonstrably a symbiotic connection there.

Pot Plant Success Can Depend on Stress

Plants, much like we humans do, also get stressed out on a daily basis, but that stress experienced by marijuana can be manipulated in a beneficial way by the adept ganja gardener. As well established by now, cannabis is a complex, sensitive living entity that can thrive given the proper conditions and treatment, which includes the level of stress the plants are exposed to and, as mentioned, how the grower manages those stressors; reducing negative stress while enhancing the positive.

Yes, when it comes to producing pot plants, there is positive stress.

Per My Hydro Life, there are stress-related tips and techniques growers can use in order to bring out the best in the pot plant, so she fulfills that aforementioned destiny of providing full flowers. Avoiding bad stressors is key, such as light cycle interruptions, when even illumination, as subtle as a red light indicator on a machine, can theoretically trigger a plant into a hermaphroditic state.

Therefore, use low intensity green lights for security cameras and other purposes, so as to not mess with the pot plant’s “photo-periodism”—its developmental response to corresponding intervals of light and dark.

Temperature is another stressor that plants must overcome. The damages wrought by temps too low are quite obvious; however, it’s the indoor setting in which excessive heat causes the problems, by altering growth patterns and by forcing the cannabis to expend too much energy into growing more plant stem—an unwanted commodity for flower seekers.

But when a plant is young and still developing, including its stem, growers can utilize good stress practices, including manipulating air circulation—by forcing a continuous flow of air on young plants that produces stress on the developing stem, forcing it to grow thicker and stronger more quickly in response than it would without the forced air.

This technique relates to the even more intriguing practice of “plant training,” in which deliberately applied stresses are utilized to direct plant shape and size. Such methods range from low-stress training, which can open up lower nodes to increased light, and super-cropping, which actually breaks the plant growing too tall for a cultivator’s preference. This technique can increase yield, if done correctly.

The Shared Life of a Pot Plant

This article barely scratches the surface of the subject, but even in this brief space we have seen that the life of a cannabis plant may have more in common with the human experience than we’re willing to acknowledge at first glance. Especially when you move past the superficial view that plants are one-dimensional things stuck in the dirt, compared to a complex, free-moving animal or free-thinking person.

T his cannabis connection is most strongly exemplified in the human endocannabinoid system that responds to the cannabis plant’s phytocannabinoids, like THC and CBD which intoxicate and heal.

Science likes to explain everything in purely scientific terms—and that’s the way it should be within that context—but that does not mean that science is the be-all, end-all of the discussion, or at least the sciences that we’re most familiar with.

Per Marijuana Games, an essay entitled “The Co-Evolution of Man and Mary Jane” argued that the cannabis plant and homo sapiens evolved together based on mutual co-dependence and benefits. For example, humans benefit by getting high and medicated, while plants in exchange receive proliferation (once silly prohibition laws are lifted), specific species cultivation and protection from predators and extinction.

Finally, there is that incredible spiritual state often experienced by the user from a great high off a ganja flower, which seems to suggest the connection between the soul, or life essence, of a cannabis plant and that of the human spirit may run far deeper than any theory has yet to explore. But there is something there…