We meet the short-haired, street-smart Mary (Julia Sarah Stone) first. She’s giving advice to an out-of-her-element younger woman on a street in Toronto. “Go home,” she tells her, offering some money to get a bus ticket back to safer environs. This experiment will not only give Mary a place to stay, but money she can use for her own place once she’s finished. Next, we meet Mary’s coworker, Jane (Brittany Bristow) as she’s being passed over for a promotion she deserved at her firm. Her boss tells her that they were afraid she’d get pregnant. He also quotes Bob Dylan, calls her a “broad,” and is dismissive before she cusses him out and quits. Lastly, we meet Mourinda (Tymika Tafari), the requisite Black girl who’s outspoken, fun, and keeps her joints in her enviable Afro. “They never search here!” she tells her boyfriend. “Because they’re scared of it.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Barry is meeting a government official to discuss the experiment that will bring these young women together, a study conducted on 18-25 year olds. The official makes no attempt to hide that he’s hoping for a result that can be skewed for his benefit, yet even after Barry calls out the ruse, he still signs up for this “to see how everything plays out.” That’s what behaviorists do, he tells us. While not a full antagonist, Barry is still bad news, upping the THC content in order to hasten negative side effects in his subjects. When the group bands together in protest, demanding to know what is happening to their bodies or else they’ll quit, Barry breaks their union by offering more money to those who complete the study.
In fact, all of the men we meet range from skeevy to sleazy to outright hateful. On the skeevy spectrum, though the film thinks he’s harmless, is Adam (Luke Bilyk), a young guy Barry hires as one of his observers. The women will have observers, medical and scientific, watching them at all times to monitor their progress. The observed folks find this creepy. Adam especially likes to monitor Janice (Kyla Avril Young), who in one scene is clearly uncomfortable with his inability to keep his damn eyes in his head. Even the other group members point out that he looks like a wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon. He’s the wrong type of guy to be hanging around a bunch of women who may not always have their wits about them, and while “The Marijuana Conspiracy” does its best to keep his romantic matters consensual, it’s a bad idea that distracts us with an unnecessary subplot.
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