In 2012, advocates for marijuana legalization pushed Initiative 502 onto the ballot in Washington state. This year, director Riley Morton released the documentary Evergreen: The Road to Legalization, which chronicles the months leading up to the vote.
In interviews with recreational and medical marijuana users, dealers, and legislators, as well as footage from protests, rallies, and events like Hempfest in Seattle, Morton slowly builds a case for legalization. More than 40 percent of drug-related arrests in the United States are tied to marijuana.
Riley sees this as an argument in favor of the decriminalization of a substance many Americans use. One interviewee, a white man, says, “If you don’t think these kids [who get arrested] are going to be kids of color primarily, then you’re not in the real world any more.”
Morton argues that legalization will make the United States safer and fairer, even for Americans who don’t use the drug. It’s easy to feel the activist urgency in the air, across conversations and events, and it’s clear that Morton is capturing a moment of change and knows it, even if his buoyant argument has deflated somewhat in the intervening two years.
Because the battle for legalization is still being fought in most other states, the lack of an up-to-date perspective is frustrating. It’s no spoiler, two years after the vote in Washington, to say that the state legalized the possession of marijuana for personal, recreational use, up to an ounce.
Unfortunately, the film’s most fascinating moment is an offhand suggestion that each of the 50 states could act as a demographic testing ground for marijuana regulation, which seems like the idea for a movie that can’t yet be made.