Six years ago, Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake—yes, that Ricki Lake—knew nothing about cannabis. Now they’re two of medical marijuana’s biggest advocates and the duo behind Weed the People, a documentary that follows the stories of young cancer patients using cannabis.
Weed the People is a deeply personal project for Ricki Lake, as her late ex-husband Christian Evans co-produced the film, which she calls his legacy. Christian suffered from mental illness and used medical marijuana as a form of treatment. He was a huge advocate for cannabis and spent much of his time online delving into the science behind its potential to help heal people. Around the same time, Ricki was contacted by a young fan who was suffering from a condition that caused tumors to form throughout her body. Chemotherapy was wreaking havoc on this young girl’s system. Touched by her story, Ricki moved the girl and her family into her home as they explored alternative options—like cannabis—to help her.
And thus, the journey to showcase cannabis’s potential as medicine, and Weed the People the film, began. Soon Ricki and Director Abby Epstein had entered a world of homemade cannabis oil and a community of families desperately holding out hope that cannabis would be taken seriously by the government—and ultimately become more readily available to those who need it.
Abby has been producing and directing thought-provoking, topical documentaries since the early 2000s. With films addressing violence against women and girls (Until the Violence Stops, 2003) and the maternity care system in America (The Business of Being Born, 2008), she knows an important story when she sees it. That moment came early on while making Weed the People when they met Sophie, who at nine months old was about to start chemo. Her parents—understandably frightened at the thought of their baby undergoing such radical treatment—found out about the potential of cannabis and invited Ricki and Abby into their lives to help document their story. Says Abby, “The first time we were over at her house they were putting a little bit of cannabis extract in her baby food, and we thought, people might be really freaked out by this. We knew we had to do a really good job in this movie explaining the science and prove that these parents aren’t irresponsible but may, in fact, be saving their baby’s vision—and possibly saving her life.”
Weed the People is an emotional film. Watching it, you’ll run the gamut of sadness, anger, and hopelessness. As Abby says, “We want people to think about the human toll of keeping this medicine away from people and scientists in this country for 80 years. You’re outraged thinking about how many people could’ve been saved—but there’s also a message of hope. Ultimately that’s what we want people to come away with, is that there’s a lot of hope in this story.”
But it’s also a rally cry because as Abby put it, “Unless people really come together and demand this option and demand that this be made accessible and affordable and demand that these clinical trials get done, it’s unlikely that this is going to move forward in a significant way.”
And in that sense, with Weed the People, Ricki and Abby are leading the way—the way to real change, hope, and healing. Learn more at weedthepeoplemovie.com. Watch on Netflix and Amazon.
*Excerpt from Svn Space print issue 001. For full article purchase your copy here.
Written By: Cheyenne Arnold: creative jack-of-all-trades based in New York City.