“Not For Human Consumption”: Synthetic Marijuana Movie

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synthetic marijuanaWe all know about fake weed. We all know how it ran rampant in South Florida for quite awhile amongst addicts trying to beat drug tests and the people tricking themselves into thinking legal is also the definition of safe.

Now synthetic marijuana’s story is hitting the big screen and Palm Beach County is the setting.

Palm Beach County is going to be the next big star in the synthetic marijuana film that is hitting the big screen next year. “Not For Human Consumption”, which is an independent film shot solely in yours truly’s South Florida, is taking the fake-weed storyline to a national level and will be debuting in theaters in Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles.

The film will be based on the experiences of the amateur North Palm Beach filmmaker who wrote the script. This feature-length movie will explore days when “smokable” herbal incense or synthetic marijuana was legal and the word on how dangerous it was was beginning to spread. It was a time when the script writer and producer, Joshua Louis, 32, and director Chris Alonso, 35, for a short time messed with the business of producing synthetic weed. They worked for about a year in 2010, packaging the lab-made herbal mix for a West Palm Beach based naufacturer Louis wouldn’t name.

“Not For Human Consumption”, has had a successful run in film festivals on the West Coast and has been picked up by a distributor that is now helping to facilitate its limited national release. The film is scheduled to have its debut in February. Where?

At the AMC Coral Ridge 10 in Fort Lauderdale and in suburban Los Angeles. After the film has its three to four week early run, wherhe it will be showing five to seven times a day, it will play more in theaters across the country.

The films distributor is all about the film and said, “We always want to release films that can have some kind of impact on people’s lives,” he said.”I think it’ll impact a lot of people.”

The product which is the star of the film is called “Magic Flame” incense. And it is very similar to a real herbal blend you may have heard of known as Mr. Nice Guy (which was manufactured in West Palm BEach and once considered the nation’s most prolific brand of synthetic marijuana according to federal prosecutors.)

The fictional story borrows from other real life events such as Louis’ three year stint in prison for attempted murder in the 2004 shooting of a Riviera Beach drug dealer and his recovery from drug addiction.

“Part of the story I took from my own life, and I pretty much made up every other character so I could concoct a more involved story of herbal incense,” Louis said, adding that he based a number of elements of the movie on facts that emerged in court during the prosecution of Mr. Nice Guy’s creators.

The Film’s Plot Line

“Not For Human Consumption,” named for the disclaimer stamped on each synthetic marijuana package in a failed effort to skirt the law, follows the struggles of Jay Trotta (played by Nick Thurston) as he tries to get his life back together after spending three years in prison for attempted murder.

While working in a West Palm Beach hookah bar, Jay is introduced to “herbal incense” — a “legal” blend of herbs sprayed with a lab-concocted compound designed to mimic marijuana’s high. Jay and his friends decide to manufacture their own product out of a garage, and before long, the booming business brings in millions of dollars in sales a month.

As the newfound entrepreneurs begin to live the high life of fast boats, expensive jewelry and ritzy homes, news breaks of the drug’s harmful effects, and Jay is confronted with a moral struggle — and a violent wake-up call.

“This is a story about redemption, about having to make your own decisions,” Louis said. “Life isn’t black and white, it’s gray, as the movie’s slogan goes, so we all have to find our own truths.”

The film has earned accolades. In October, Louis and Alonso came home from the Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo., with the top prize of “Best Feature.” That same month, “Not For Human Consumption” won “Best Editing” honors at the Indie Fest USA International Film Festival in Garden Grove, Calif.

When “Not For Human Consumption” comes home to South Florida, the story may have a familiar ring.

In the late 2000s, at the height of the national synthetic marijuana craze, South Florida quietly became a manufacturing hub, with Kratom Lab brewing Mr. Nice Guy in nondescript warehouses in West Palm Beach. By the time federal agents busted the operation last year, Mr. Nice Guy’s signature smiley-face packages with the X’s for eyes were in hot demand in head shops and convenience stores across the country. One federal prosecutor called Kratom Lab “one of the largest manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids in the United States.”

Though Mr. Nice Guy makes no appearance on screen, Louis said the much-publicized operation influenced certain aspects of the storyline — including a run-in with bootleggers reproducing Jay’s “Magic Flame” incense; the product’s quick rise in popularity; and the cash-rich lifestyle the manufacturers quickly fall into. But unlike the two Palm Beach County men sentenced in August to federal prison terms for manufacturing Mr. Nice Guy, in the movie Jay and his buddies get out before the business turns sour.

So did Louis and Alonso.

“Once we started seeing the negative fallout, that’s when we walked away from it and created the script,” said Louis, who began playing with a 60-page manuscript.

He teamed up with Alonso, who had dabbled in directing films since the age of 14. The pair already had some filmmaking success. In 2009, they made a short film, “It’s Happening … Finally!,” a nine-minute comedy also shot in Palm Beach County. In 2011, it won the “Script to Reel” contest at the Downtown Boca Film Festival.

Other real-life influences inspired much of the dramatic underpinnings of the “Not For Human Consumption” storyline.

Like Jay, Louis got clean in prison, and he also grapples to this day with some of the guilt his main character experiences over the drug-related death of an on-screen character.

While in recovery, Louis said hebefriended and mentored a man named Adam Erdman, who also worked at the synthetic marijuana operation for a short time, at Louis’ invitation. Eventually, Erdman relapsed and, in January 2011, he was killed on the streets of Miami,according toLouis and Erdman’s girlfriend, Hayley Snyder.

At the end of the movie, the film pays brief homage to Erdman’s memory before the credits roll.

Louis said it was important to publicly acknowledge the real-life consequences of addiction.

“It hit me hard. It was a tough moment,” he said of learning of Erdman’s death, adding about his own brush with violence and his time in prison: “It was a horrible experience, but it was what turned my life around.”

Schramm, the distributor, said he thinks viewers will walk away from the film with an important message.

“If somebody believes that this situation is actually happening, it may change some lives,” he said. “That’s what I’d like to see happen.”

 

Much of this blog was taken from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel written by Nicole Brochu

The link to the original article can be found here:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/health/fl-synthetic-marijuana-movie-20131126,0,3919629.story