It's been more than a decade since Nate Norman helped turn a group of teenagers and twentysomethings from Coeur d'Alene into one of the most profitable marijuana-smuggling gangs the region had ever seen. Now the story of these unlikely drug kingpins who made millions running pot across the Canadian border is on the big screen with the release of Kid Cannabis, adapted from a 2005 Inlander article by former staff writer Kevin Taylor.
Written and directed by John Stockwell, best known for his work on the sexy surf flick Blue Crush, the film mostly stays true to what was reported in Taylor's story and an expansive Rolling Stone piece by Mark Binelli. But there's plenty of movie magic at play: You don't actually see Coeur d'Alene or its lake — the film was shot in Victoria, B.C.
That shouldn't dissuade your interest in this intriguing story, which ultimately resulted, albeit tangentially, in the murder of 20-year-old Brendan Butler, a rival CdA pot dealer who hired hitmen to wipe out Norman's crew. A lot of the film is devoted to the extravagance of Norman and company's lifestyle after they were rolling in cash (lots of parties, boats, boobs and luxury SUVs).
In the course of its screen time, Kid Cannabis is thrilling, funny and in the case of Butler, tragic. Perhaps most startling, the film brings to light how much a decade has changed the war on drugs, especially when it comes to pot. These kids were crossing a heavily wooded international border on foot in order to score quality weed for their customers, but it's hard to imagine they'd have much of a market in 2014, when the stuff is perfectly legal just a few minutes drive from Coeur d'Alene. ♦
Kid Cannabis opens in Spokane at the Magic Lantern Theatre on Fri, April 25; also currently playing at the Hayden Discount Cinemas in Hayden.