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SSDP to host premiere of drug war documentary

Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 08:11

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James Choca / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) has invited award−winning documentarian Kevin Booth to campus on Dec. 4 for the world premiere of his new movie, “American Drug War 2: Cannabis Destiny.”

The feature documentary comes as a sequel to Booth’s “American Drug War: The Last White Hope” (2007) and focuses on individuals whose lives have been affected by what Booth alleges to be a failed war on drugs.

The event is a follow−up to a previous SSDP event hosted in April at which Booth visited Tufts and showed clips of the then−unfinished film. At the upcoming event, the full movie will be accompanied by a question−and−answer session with Booth, according to Co−President of SSDP Lauren Traitz, a junior.

Booth said that his movie’s main focus is a young boy who was diagnosed with a Stage IV brain tumor at the age of two and later fell into a 40−day coma.

His parents discovered a cannabis oil manufacturer named Rick Simpson who claimed to have cured his own cancer, as well as that of thousands more patients, with an extremely potent form of cannabis oil.

The child’s parents then began sneaking the oil into the boy’s feeding tube, taking over a hundred hours of hidden camera footage as they did so, Booth said.

In just a few days, the child was awake and eating, and brain scans indicated that the tumor had disappeared.

Booth hopes to use stories like this, in conjunction with other tales of people whose lives have been affected by cannabis and the illegal drug trade, to promote drug policy reform and the legalization of marijuana.

“The thing is, the drug war didn’t end with ‘American Drug War 1,’” he told the Daily. “It’s continuing on, and there are endless stories. It’s a civil liberties thing. People should be allowed to use whatever medicine they want. People should be allowed to put whatever they want into their own bodies.”

At the premiere of the movie, SSDP expects Booth to speak about both policy reform and his process as a documentarian, according to junior Allison Wilens, co−president of SSDP.

SSDP applied to the Tufts Community Union Senate for $4,200 of the supplementary fund for Booth’s visit, roughly the same amount that was spent on the April event.

Senators passed the allocation with five dissenting votes, including one from sophomore Senator Jessie Serrino of the Allocations Board.

“Based on the outcome for the last event, which was 60 people, it would cost around $70 per person to have this event,” Serrino said. “Although I very strongly supported the cause, I didn’t feel comfortable spending students’ money when I didn’t think it would be used to the best advantage. In reality, we’re spending a lot of money on things we don’t go to.”

SSDP estimates that at least 100 students will attend the film’s premiere, Traitz said.

The event will take place in Barnum 008, which can seat up to 224 people.

Traitz defended the funding, citing the group’s small budget and the cost of covering Booth’s travel and lodging, which account for nearly the entire allocation. SSDP has a few $50 slots for speaking fees but would not be able to cover such a large deficit, she added.

“You can read about the medicinal effects of cannabis, you can read about the effects of our war on drugs ... but it’s really a striking thing to view [in film] the effects that these policies and these drugs are having on people’s lives,” she said. “There’s definitely a value in having that be a way to introduce people to this issue. It’s no longer about a bunch of hippies trying to smoke weed. It’s very much a real political issue.”

Wilens emphasized the importance of being able to directly question Booth’s conclusions.

“That’s why Kevin Booth is such a good person to bring,” Wilens said. “He’s not just a guy who’s listing statistics — we could do that, and we often do. He has met people who have been first−hand affected by prohibition, and he can show this official, first−hand look at these people in a way that is more emotional and harder to ignore.”

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