When documentary filmmaker David Jakubovic was first asked to make a movie about cannabis in 2018, he shrugged off the opportunity.
As far as he could tell this whole CBD thing was just another health craze that would pass in time. And besides, he thought, weren’t stoners kind of annoying?
But he took the time to google the plant and came across a TEDx talk by Dedi Meiri, head of the world’s leading cannabis lab at the Israeli Institute of Technology. Meiri talked about how scientists — not just hippies — are using weed to treat severe childhood epilepsy, PTSD and fight cancerous tumours.
That turned everything Jakubovic thought he knew about cannabis on its head. It also launched the director into creating and producing the documentary CBD Nation, debuts on most mainstream streaming services Aug. 25.
The documentary is designed to drop a knowledge bomb on people’s heads and shake up everything they thought they knew about the plant, explains Jakubovic from his home in New York.
“You really don’t need to spend a year studying this stuff for your stigmas to be broken. You need five minutes of being open to listen to facts,” he says.
CBD Nation weaves together interviews with over 30 doctors, clinicians, researchers, advocates and patients into an hour and a half documentary on the benefits offered by a medicine that has been used by humans for thousands of years.
Jakubovic says he started filming the movie by reaching out to a single researcher who’d written a book about cannabis. That researcher connected him with a doctor, who connected him with a patient, who said you need to meet this other activist — and so on. “The movie wrote itself,” he says with a laugh.
While CBD Nation is a film about a deeply politicized drug, Jakubovic says he intentionally kept politics out of it.
“I didn’t want to get into the war on drugs. I was purposefully trying to avoid any controversial thoughts in viewers. I wanted the most socially conservative, anti-cannabis, stigma carrying person to watch this and not ever be provoked to think, ‘Oh this is just hippy speak,'” he says. “I don’t want people to go there in their heads watching this. I want them to just deal with the science.”
Politics might be intentionally left out, but religion is featured throughout the documentary.
The filmmaker says she was surprised by the number of deeply religious people he met who supported cannabis use — from all major faiths.
Jason David is one such devout man whose story is featured in the film. His son, Jayden, was born with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of treatment-resistant epilepsy that can be fatal. It’s also one of two known epileptic disorders that can be treated using a CBD medication called Epidiolex, which was the first weed-based medication to be approved by the U.S. FDA this April.
But in April of 2011, before he discovered medical cannabis, David was watching his son slowly die, and says he was considering suicide. Through prayers and his faith he held on long enough to discover CBD treatment. Today Jayden is a healthy kid and his dad runs a cannabis store called Jayden’s Journey.
“Jason goes and prays and crosses himself — he’s very religious. And I loved that connection,” Jakubovic says. “That’s very stigma-shattering to me.”
Another person in the film with a stigma-breaking story is Rylie Maedler, who was diagnosed with aggressive giant cell granuloma at age seven. Shortly after the diagnosis Rylie’s mom started her on a high-THC therapy to treat associated seizures and combat the degenerative bone disease.
Today at 14 Rylie is a straight-A, honour-role student who heads a therapeutic botanical oil company, travels the world advocating for medical cannabis and helped pass laws granting medical access to youth in her home state of Delaware.
That might not be what you’d expect from a kid taking psychoactive weed-derivatives five times a day, but she’s living proof of cannabis’s place in paediatric medicine, says Holly Aubry, CEO of Human Nature, the PR firm promoting CBD Nation.
It’s easy to paint all of the science and testimonials as being about medical cannabis, but Jakubovic says creating distinction between recreational and medical is harmful. Different people respond to different cannabinoids and chemovars, so controlling who can access what might keep people from finding a combination that works for them, he said: The question shouldn’t be about why someone is accessing the plant, but how that plant can help them.
When CBD Nation premiers later this month, Jakubovic says he’ll be celebrating as you do during Covid-19 — by eating pasta at home and spending a lot of time talking on Facetime.
“Maybe I’ll pop a bottle of champagne,” he chuckles.
Top image of Rylie Maedler, who lives with the rare degenerative bone disease known as aggressive giant cell granuloma. After several years of surgery and THC therapy, she is the only known person with the disease worldwide whose bones have regenerated, according to the film. Press photo