Documentary attempts to persuade Congress

With prostitutes, hundreds of windmills and a hashish dealer named Naroush, Stephen Markoff tries to persuade national lawmakers to expand their minds about medicinal marijuana with Sex, Drugs, and Democracy, a documentary about Dutch law.

Markoff, chairman of A-Mark Financial Corporation, is sending a copy of the 1994 documentary to the president, vice president and every Congress and Cabinet member.

In the film, Markoff offers an argument against House Resolution 372, an anti-medicinal marijuana bill. If taken seriously by elected officials, the film’s contention that the Dutch approach to drugs is more logical than U.S. policy will help shape debate on the resolution in the House of Representatives.

The documentary examines liberal Dutch laws, such as legalized prostitution and pornography, government-funded needle distribution, euthanasia and the open sale of marijuana and hashish. It combines uncensored film footage with a continuous, narrative string of clips from interviews with government officials, businessmen, drug addicts and others.

Far from a dispassionate exploration of the Dutch legal system, the film in many ways is a reaction to U.S. policy. It periodically pauses to take shots at what it sees as the hypocrisy of American morality laws. Interspersed in the documentary are selected articles of the Dutch Constitution emphasizing freedom.

The rub with the U.S. Congress will be the film’s exploration of the Netherlands’ method of dealing with drugs, which stands far outside the arguments offered thus far in House documents concerning the anti-medicinal marijuana House Resolution 372.

Marijuana is tolerated in Holland, though it is illegal because of international agreements to which the Dutch are bound. Both marijuana and hashish are available at more than 2,000 coffee shops throughout the Netherlands to people 18 and older. Smoking pot also is used freely as a medical treatment.

Such free availability of marijuana is far off the radar screens of House judiciary and commerce committees members, but the argument about possible medical use is still potent.

The case made in Sex, Drugs, and Democracy offers alternatives to several of the premises and points of House Resolution 372, including that marijuana is a “gateway” drug and that alternative medicines make the use of marijuana unnecessary.

An American filmmaker catering to U.S. audiences, Blank further questions U.S. marijuana policy. During a segment detailing the other commercial uses the Dutch have for hemp, such as for paper, rope and building material, the documentary cuts to a 1942 U.S. Department of Agriculture film – Hemp for Victory.

The Dutch also comment on American policy. Interviewees likened the effects of the international ban on marijuana to U.S. prohibition, and one admitted ex-marijuana smoker even takes a slightly inaccurate shot at President Clinton.

Dr. Peter Drenth, president of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences jokes, “I cannot inhale.”

A free public screening and reception at the AMC Union Station 9 Theater will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. and at Tower Video at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. Friday at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Posters will be given away and the film’s director Jonathan Blank will make a guest appearance.

3 hatchets

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.