video: Medical Marijuana User Directs Documentary ‘License To Grow’

Monday, June 11, 2012


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Medical marijuana gardens are part of the backdrop to Joshua Fishlock's new documentary, License to Grow. Photo: Joshua Fishlock.

A Rhode Island filmmaker who is also a medical marijuana patient is making a documentary about medical marijuana from the patient's point of view.

License To Grow, directed by 27-year-old documentary filmmaker Joshua Fishlock, offers audiences a unique opportunity to gain an intimate understanding of a guarded subject that is traditionally kept private, as well as first-hand access to the state-certified medical gardens. Midway Pictures, the film studio responsible for David Bettencourt's acclaimed documentary, You Must Be This Tall: The Story of Rocky Point Park, is behind License to Grow. The film is slated for release in 2013.

GoLocal spoke to Fishlock about the film, and obtained his first trailer (below).

What got you interested in making License to Grow?

This is an appropriate film for me to direct because License To Grow is a film about the patients in the RI MMJ program and I happen to be a patient in that program.  Although I will not be in the film, I will be using my unique perspective to tell the story of what it means to be a patient in Rhode Island.  Other than my filmmaking, I teach as an adjunct professor at URI and RIC, and will be attending UCONN in the Fall to start my doctoral studies in Communication Sciences.

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The idea for License To Grow came out from an interview that I had with a caregiver in order to determine whether he would be a good fit for me as my caregiver.  We met up together for coffee and talked about what my ailment was and what my needs for medicine would be.  One thing led to another and we began to talk about our life outside the program and the documentaries that I had worked on.  The idea came up that a film should be made about Rhode Island and the medical marijuana program so after our meeting ended I went home and started to do some research.

I thought about what would make this film stand out from the other marijuana documentaries that are out and then the idea hit me.  This would be a patient's perspective on the legitimate medical use of marijuana and not just a documentary on marijuana use, as a majority of the other films out are.  I the constructed a proposal and script, which I then showed to RIPAC director Joanne Lepannen who approved of my vision.  I wanted RIPAC to support me because they are the web that connects all aspects of the medical marijuana community together.  There would be no way I would have access to the gardens and people that I do, without them and I am very grateful.

What stage are you in with the production of License To Grow?

After my proposal was approved I entered into the production stage, which I still am in.  This means that I am currently conducting interviews and gathering b-roll of footage.  Since March, I have visited quite a few gardens and have interviewed about 10 patients/caregivers or advocates so far.  I hope to have about 20 or 30 interviews by the end of the year, which will give me plenty of footage to enter into post-production and editing.

The film's trailer features a patient talking about stigmas surrounding medical marijuana. Are you finding this is the case as you work on the film?

As a Communication Sciences graduate, I find it interesting that a lot of the major news outlets, even those in Rhode Island, are referring to our medicine as ‘pot’  or ‘weed’.  This is a clear use of loaded language, which draws upon the cultural biases of the recreational side of marijuana use.  In doing so the patients are being categorized as being a part of the substance abusers.  By framing any story using this language it will draw upon the stigmas of stoners and drug abusers, which will cause people to think that this program is nothing more than an excuse for these patients to get high.  This is a clear distinction from the language used by individuals in the program. Using carefully chosen language, such as ‘medicine’ we hope to break through these stigmas in order to show that there is a legitimate use of marijuana to ease suffering. 

Medical marijuana continues to be a hot-button political issue in Rhode Island. Have you been discovered yet by any advocates on either side of the issue? If so, how's that been?

I have met a few advocates of the program so far, including those in the Brown University Students for Sensible Drug Policy group.  They have been very receptive and welcoming to RIPAC and patients in the program, hosting Q&A session with Dr. [Michael] Fine of the Rhode Island Department of Health. I would like to meet many more however, and hope that this article will motivate individuals to meet with me and talk about their views regarding the program.  

The trailer says release in 2013. What are your goals for the film?

I plan to release this film in 2013 using a festival route.  That means that I cannot have a public showing, otherwise I would be disqualified from many film festivals.  I want to give this film as much exposure as possible and feel that people all around the country should hear these patients story, because what is happening in Rhode Island is slowly happening in other states as well.   Therefore I will be submitting my film to many of the festivals such as Telluride, Sundance, the Rhode Island Film Festival and many others.

I have set up a Web site to act as a communications hub so that individuals can get into contact with me or support the cause by buying a t-shirt. 10% of all proceeds will get donated to RIPAC. The Web site is

Watch the trailer for License to Grow, here.

For more coverage, don't miss GoLocalTV, fresh every day at 4pm and on demand 24/7, here.


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