INTERVIEW: The Women of The Marijuana Conspiracy
The film tells the true story of a controversial experiment on the effects of cannabis in 1972.
In 1972, Canada recruited 20 women to participate in Project Venus, a radical experiment funded by the Canadian government. These women were kept in a Toronto hospital for 98 days, with no contact with their friends, families, or the outside world. 10 women were part of the control group, while the other 10 were given cannabis doses (joints) every evening. All the women were tasked creating macramé crafts, designed to measure their productivity under the influence. They were also medically tested and analyzed via round the clock observers.
After 98 days, the findings of the study were buried, and have still not been made public. But the women in the study continue to live with the psychological trauma of the wildly controversial experiment, which echoes the notorious Stanford prison experiment which occurred just one year before.
Director Craig Pryce ( (Good Witch, The Dark) explores the story of the women in his new film The Marijuana Conspiracy, which offers a fascinating look at the bonds created among the women. While the characters they play are amalgams of the real women, they were able to meet the actual participants during a set visit.
We sat down with three of the actresses from the film to talk about fake weed, macramé, and the real life bonds they now share. Julia Sarah Stone (Honey Bee, Allure) plays Mary, a woman seeking housing and community, who hears of the study from co-worker Jane, played by Brittany Bristow (Holiday Date). Jane joins the study after being passed over for a promotion due to a sexist boss. Marissa (Star Trek: Discovery‘s Morgan Kohan) joins the program to fund her own business, and quickly forms a flirtation with a handsome researcher.
Kohan talked about the prop joints used during several smoking scenes in the film, saying “It was just herbal menthol cigarettes, but mint smoke in your eyeballs still burns, you still feel it at the end of it.”
Much like the real life women, the actresses formed quick, close bonds with another during the shoot. Stone said, “It was incredible, I’d never really been part of an ensemble cast like that, so it was a really nice experience for me, and to get to work with so many great women, they’re such incredible actors and just the best scene partners I could have asked for. I think we all felt it was a really special experience, and great friendships and bonds created for sure.”
Bristow described meeting the women from the real experiment, who came for a set visit. She said, “It was really exciting, we had an opportunity to talk to them, and they were so excited coming in and looking at our set, they were amazed that we were doing such a good job of bringing what they had lived through to life. And they were overall so happy that someone was finally telling this story. It was really exciting to see how happy they were that we were making it.”
“It was amazing”, said Kohan. “It was so nice to work with so many women, and so many young women, like a lot of the time we’re going out for the same roles, and we’re in competition with each other, and this time we were all working together on one thing that we were all really excited about, so it was awesome, it was a really great experience in that respect.”
Bristow said what drew her to the project was the untold story of these women. “More than anything, was the fact that it was based on a true story, and that I had absolutely no knowledge of what had happened. So, I thought it was just a really unique opportunity to be a part of a story that was so well written and so fun. To be given the opportunity to bring this story to life, and represent the women who actually went through this and experienced this, so ultimately that I had the opportunity to bring this story to life.”
As for the macramé, the actors became pros at the 70s craft. Stone said, “I got really fast at it, and it was funny because my character was supposed to be bad at it, but I ended up teaching some of my fellow cast members a few of the knots we were doing, so that was a little bit of irony.” Bristow added, “I was joking with my boyfriend during quarantine that I could macramé us a hammock, then I realized, nope, no, I don’t want to do that … I think all of us could still do it today. I could do it in my sleep at this point.”
The Marijuana Conspiracy is available on streaming and SVOD today.
(image: Samuel Goldwyn Films)
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