Sneak Preview of "Dispensing Cannabis" documentary

Sep 26, 2006

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. There's more information at

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."

Among those interviewed are Dr. Lester Grinspoon of the Harvard Medical School; 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.

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 realize 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."

Full film credits and photos from the production are posted at For more information, including DVD distribution, contact Ann Alter at 826.5495;