“Code of the West,” the critically acclaimed documentary on medical marijuana providers in Montana, became dated almost as soon as it was originally released, one more casualty of a much broader tempest of political intrigue and public backlash that eventually cost one man his freedom and another his life. The film, a human-centric meditation on the uglier side of the political process by Rebecca Richman Cohen, focused on the four main partners of Montana Cannabis, a dispensary which attempted to set the gold standard for transparency and compliance with their state’s 2004 medical marijuana law.
It was a chronicle of a downfall in progress. As public attitudes regarding cannabis began to shift in Montana, Republican legislators in the state house saw an opportunity to shut down the state’s dispensary system. With the apparent collusion of high-ranking state officials, the DEA coordinated a state-wide raid which targeted most of the cannabis clubs in the state – including Montana Cannabis, where partners Chris Williams and Richard Flor saw their dreams go up in smoke.
While the film’s initial release met with great success, events outside of the filmmakers’ control soon upped the stakes so dramatically for the film’s subjects that Cohen decided to cut a new version. The result is a story even more riveting – and a plea for ending the drug war more compelling – than before, positioning “Code of West” as one of the must-see documentaries of 2013.