From Capitol Column
Stone noted that there are things that the U.S. Government can do to help improve the situation in Mexico, including legalizing marijuana.
Oliver Stone thinks its time to stop the endless debate and legalize marijuana.
“I think it’s a tragedy what has happened, and I saw it coming 40 years ago, and it keeps going. And of course politicians keep making election promises,” the film director and screenwriter told MTV News. “It’s an easy subject to win votes on.”
His latest film, “Savages,” tells the story of two small time pot dealers who get caught up with a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. Based on the novel of the same name by Don Winslow, it’s a crime thriller that is more focused on action than leaving audiences with a strong political message.
“It is set in a drug war,” he explains. “It’s set in California, and we have a new burgeoning industry here with young independent growers. It makes sense. It’s a hypothetical situation; it could happen.”
But Mr. Stone has a strong message of his own on the subject of marijuana legalization.
“A lot of money gets involved, and it’s built up into a huge industry in America and in Mexico, where we have criminal justice that has been perverted,” he said in the interview. “We have victimless crimes all over our jails: 50 percent of our jail population is involved with victimless crimes, most of them with drugs. Money gets made by the prisons and the precept will take them private, you know that, and the politicians win votes, the prosecutors, the judges, the bailiffs, everything.”
In June, Mr. Stone was featured on the cover of High Times smoking a joint.
“Certainly if you appreciate California weed, which I have for many years, you’ll realize that we’re somewhat close to the money when we say that, California has surpassed Thailand, Jamaica, South Sudan, and certainly Mexico as the king and queen of quality weed,” he told High Times. “I’m thinking myself of getting into the business, although I suspect there’d be a lot of stress with the Feds changing the rules all the time.”
In the MTV interview, Mr. Stone expressed his disappointment in President Barack Obama and other politicians over their failure to act on the issue.
“Obama promised it, but he never delivered. He certainly talked about it. He let us down in a big way on that issue,” he said. “You know what it’s going to take? New leadership. Young people…to get out there and get in front of things and just call a spade a spade.”
From Harlem World: Oliver Stone discusses weed, war and ‘Savages’
Oliver Stone makes no bones about it — he is an overall proponent of marijuana. So it’s no surprise the controversial plant is a central theme in his new film “Savages,” in theaters this weekend. (It’s also no surprise he recently landed himself on the cover of High Times, pictured smoking a joint.)
“Savages,” a work of fiction based on a Don Winslow novel of the same name, delves into a very current world wherein legal marijuana distribution clashes with a very crooked Mexican cartel. The film delivers shocks to the system, filled with stylized violence, sex and drug laden sequences, along with a few jack-in-the-box surprises, likely designed by Stone to jolt you out of your seat. “Savages” is also an exercise in juxtaposition, depicting both bright Southern California beach culture and calculated, bloody organized crime.
Meriah Doty sat down with Mr. Stone to talk about his stance on the green, leafy drug and how he chose to approach it in the film. He also discusses how drug dealing has changed since he wrote “Scarface.” Known for his many films which explore the Vietnam War, a war Stone fought in real life, “Savages” is a relatively rare occurrence wherein Stone reflects on more recent wars.
Meriah Doty: “Savages” depicts not only the business of marijuana distribution but also touches on the legalization of marijuana. What do you hope audiences will take away?
Oliver Stone: I never think about that. They take away what they take away. Look, it is legal in… California as well as 20 other states, and the federal government is cracking down. I think the federal government is dead wrong. Prosecuting the war on drugs will get us nowhere. It’s just going to end up with more people in prison, more money being spent, more damage to Mexico, more damage to our own culture. We have an entire African American underclass in prison because of victimless crimes such as marijuana. It’s gotta stop, but it won’t. The system is built on money. So, I’m not optimistic about America’s ability to extract itself from the war on drugs — It’s a mistake in the first place. I believe in, at the very least, decriminalization of the drug. If you can’t legalize it, at least decriminalize it — ’cause who’s getting hurt here? Marijuana is a healing drug and it’s been a very kind friend to humanity for about 3, 4 thousand years. Probably cavemen smoked it for Christsake. I think alcohol and cigarettes are far more damaging.
MD: How has the business of drug dealing changed since you wrote “Scarface” in the early eighties?
OS: [There has been a] huge amount of change. In the 1980s it was coming through Florida. And it was Colombian and it was coke [i.e. cocaine]. Because of the crackdowns in Florida by the feds and the RICO Act it went through Mexico. [The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act established in 1970, which was aimed at disabling organized crime.]… And then the Mexicans had the bright idea of taking over the trade themselves. The Colombians got cut out — It was called the “trampoline effect.” Not only that but Mexican weed had been growing for generations. Actually we planted marijuana — the United States government — in the 1930s as an experiment for medical purposes — we planted it in Mexico. We gave them the poppy idear [sic] and they kept coming with it. The weed in Mexico was not great, nor was it ever, but they developed new methods. But the idear [sic] of the movie is that they want to move in on the quality control — the California wines are the best — these Americans have devised ways to make the seeds — cross seeds — in ways that are very creative. So, the idear [sic] in the movie is that when you get a niche business Wal-Mart’s going to come in and be your partner or take you over — which leads to bloodshed and resistance. Cause these kids resist and I think that’s much to their credit.
MD: In many of your films you depict the Vietnam War, in this the Iraq War is a backdrop. How is depicting that war different?
OS: Not different at all. It’s very much the same. Taylor Kitsch [plays a] veteran from Iraq and Afghanistan. He brings back the [marijuana] seed from Afghanistan. He also has buddies who are willing to back him 100 percent in a very bloody stand against the cartel. This has all happened before in various forms since Vietnam. America is enamored of its wars… These wars come home to roost. The drug war will come here eventually as will Afghanistan and Iraq — and they did in 2001.
MD: In the film you fuse light moments with extremely dark and violent moments. What was your strategy in keeping the tone at the right balance?
OS: Light and dark. It was my “Beach Blanket Bingo.” You know, I loved Laguna Beach — it was in the Don Winslow book. He loves the beach and the sun and the sand and the surf. It was always intended to be brightly colored. The savage backdrop comes with the cartels: dark, black. And you see the contrast. I love those kinds of movies — from heaven to hell and back.
MD:Who are savages in the real world today?
OS: You have to decide that for yourself. The movie [has an] ironic title. I think it’s said in the movie they talk about who the real savages are. But certainly you have to put the focus quite a bit on Aaron Johnson’s character ’cause he is, at the beginning of the movie, the one, I think, you would identify with the most. Where he goes and his journey is symbolic of what the drug war has done to this country.
Oliver Stone has smoked great marijuana all over the world, from Vietnam and Thailand to Jamaicaand South Sudan. But the filmmaker says the best weed is made in the USA and that pot could be a huge growth industry for taxpayers if it were legalized.
Mr. Stone, whose drug-war thriller “Savages” opens Friday, has been a regular toker since his days as an infantryman in Vietnam in the late 1960s. He insisted in a recent interview that no one is producing better stuff now than U.S. growers.
“There’s good weed everywhere in the world, but my God, these Americans are brilliant,” said Mr. Stone, 65, who sees only benefits from legalizing marijuana. “It can be done. It can be done legally, safely, healthy, and it can be taxed, and the government can pay for education and stuff like that. Also, you can save a fortune by not putting kids in jail.”
Mr. Stone is known for mixing polemics and drama in films such as “JFK,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Wall Street” and “Nixon,” his saga of the president who declared the war on drugs 40 years ago. Yet “Savages” may be closer to a pure thrill ride than anything else he’s done, the action coming without much in the way of preaching for legalization.
Still, the film offers a fictional portrait of violence among a Mexican drug cartel and California pot growers that makes legalizing marijuana seem like a sane option.
“That would be my personal solution, but as a politician, I would fight for decriminalization first, because that is the immediate byproduct of this mess that we got ourselves into. It’s very hard to pull out of a $40 billion-a-year industry, which is the prison industry. It’s probably more than $40 billion. But they will fight you tooth and nail to keep these prisons as big as they are,” Mr. Stone said.
“It’s worse than slavery, per capita. In the black community, it is a form of slavery, this drug war, because it imprisons a huge portion of people, destroys their lives, coarsens our culture. And why? Marijuana is much less harmful than tobacco and prescription drugs in many cases and certainly alcohol. This puritanical strain got started with Nixon. It was a political issue for him, and it’s gotten worse. It’s like the Pentagon. You can’t stop it.”
“Savages” co-star Salma Hayek had some worries that the film could have become a sermon in favor of drug legalization. She was glad the film wound up sticking to a good story and generally keeping politics out of it, even though she agrees that legalization makes sense for marijuana, at least.
“Yeah, marijuana, if it’s legalized and controlled,” Miss Hayek said. “Some of the other drugs that are on the market are really, really dangerous. The legal drugs. That your doctor can prescribe. And they can kill you with it slowly.”
Miss Hayek plays the merciless boss of a Mexican cartel aiming to seize control of a California pot operation whose leaders (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) grow the best marijuana on the planet. The film co-stars Benicio Del Toro as Miss Hayek’s brutal lieutenant, John Travolta as a corrupt Drug Enforcement Administration cop and Blake Lively as Johnson and Kitsch’s shared lover, whose kidnapping puts the two sides at war.
Mr. Stone, who has two Academy Awards as best director — for 1989’s “Born on the Fourth of July” and 1986’s “Platoon” (the latter also won best picture) — has had a fitful career since the mid-1990s, with critical bombs such as “Alexander” and modest box-office results for “W.” “World Trade Center” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
With gorgeous Southern California scenery, wicked humor and relentless action, “Savages” may have more commercial appeal than anything Mr. Stone has done in decades. While the film itself doesn’t preach, it has given Mr. Stone a soapbox to play devil’s advocate, even landing him on the cover of the marijuana magazine High Times, smoking a joint.
Mr. Stone considers his pot use part of a healthy regimen.
“It doesn’t hurt me,” he said. “As you can see, I’m still functioning at my age. My mind feels good. I may not be the brightest rocket in the room, but I certainly feel like I’m competent.”
- Oliver Stone Knows Good Weed (huffingtonpost.com)
- Stone Says US No. 1 … for Great Weed (abcnews.go.com)
- Oliver Stone: Illegal Weed Laws ‘Worse than Slavery’ (redalertpolitics.com)
- ‘Savages’ Director Oliver Stone Wants Real Change In Marijuana Laws (mtv.com)
- Savages: Stone’s Stoner Film Reminds Us Why Marijuana Should Be Legal (world.time.com)
- Oliver Stone discusses weed, war and ‘Savages’ (harlemworldmag.com)