Executive producer of Weed The People Ricki Lake came up with the idea for the documentary after she and her husband took in a young girl with cancer.

“My husband at the time, my beloved Christian Evans who passed away last year, he discovered CBD and cannabis for his own healing, and also for his grandfather, who was dying of terminal cancer, and then also for this little girl that we met through social media, of all places, Twitter,” Lake told uInterview exclusively at South by Southwest. “This little girl who was a fan of mine from Dancing With The Stars had a different disease called NF1, which causes tumors to grow on your nerve endings, and she was being treated with chemotherapy. Very unpredictably, my husband and I moved this little girl into our home for six weeks and went on this plight to find alternative medications for her to help her with her disease.”

Lake was telling the film’s director, Abby Epstein, about the little girl when Epstein suggested turning the story into a film.

“I was telling Abby — because we’re friends and we work together — I was like, ‘Can you believe we’re moving this family into our house and we’re flying her up to Mendocino to meet this cannabis doctor. Can you believe I’m doing this?’” Lake said. “And she’s like, ‘That’s our next movie. I think we need to document this.’ And so we started doing it, and again, that family is not in the film, but that was the birth of ‘Weed The People.’”

Neither Lake nor Epstein used cannabis recreationally or medicinally when they first started making Weed The People. However, after getting to know the families that would become the subjects of the film, they came to view access to medical marijuana as a human rights issue.

“The takeaway is that, you know, this really is a human rights issue,” Epstein said. “Once that door is opened and once you see the truth, and once you see the science and once you understand that this potentially could save lives, then it really becomes so hard to swallow that this medicine is not accessible to everyone, is incredibly expensive, is not covered by insurance, is federally illegal … it becomes a human rights violation. It really does.”

They hope that the film and the stories of the families in it will create a positive impact.

“I could say for sure from our screening yesterday that the audience was not expecting what they saw,” Epstein said. “They really were kind of blown away by what they learned, and I think of the full impact that I think this film could have. I think this really could be like The Inconvenient Truth of cannabis for many people.”

Read uInterview’s full, exclusive interview with Lake and Epstein below.

How did the idea for ‘Weed The People’ come about?

Abby Epstein: Ricki and I have been making films together for — our first film came out 10 years ago, ‘The Business of Being Born.’

When we started making ‘Weed The People,’ neither of us were cannabis activists. Neither of us had any real experience with cannabis.

Ricki Lake: We weren’t even cannabis users. I mean, minimally. I mean, you know, I’m definitely not anti-using, but it’s just, it wasn’t my medicine necessarily. So, each of the films we’ve made come, I think, from personal experience first and foremost. So for me, I had this — my husband at the time, my beloved Christian Evans who passed away last year, he discovered CBD and cannabis for his own healing, and also for his grandfather, who was dying of terminal cancer, and then also for this little girl that we met through social media, of all places, Twitter. This little girl who was a fan of mine from Dancing With The Stars had a different disease called NF1, which causes tumors to grow on your nerve endings, and she was being treated with chemotherapy. Very unpredictably, my husband and I moved this little girl into our home for six weeks and went on this plight to find alternative medications for her to help her with her disease.

I was telling Abby, because we’re friends and we work together, I was like, ‘Can you believe we’re moving this family into our house and we’re flying her up to Mendocino to meet this cannabis doctor. Can you believe I’m doing this?’ And she’s like, ‘That’s our next movie. I think we need to document this.’ And so we started doing it, and again, that family is not in the film, but that was the birth of ‘Weed The People.’

How did you choose the subjects?

RL: They all sort of fell into our lap. I mean with Sophie, I think Sophie was the first, maybe, after the little girl we worked with initially, and she came to us through Facebook, right? And it turns out her mom, Tracy, was a fan of our first movie, ‘The Business of Being Born,’ and came to one of our events while she was pregnant with Sophie. So it’s so crazy that — the connections, you know?

Yesterday was the world premiere. Many of the subjects were there at the screening. Many of them — none of them had seen the film at all, so it was so interesting to cut to five, six years later, we’re all kind of here. The fact that they trusted us.

I think every character in the film is equally compelling. You know, Chico and their stories, AJ, and even the one little boy, AJ, that passed away, I mean, his story is so important. They lived in an illegal state. It was that much harder for them to get access to this medicine. Whether that contributed to him dying earlier than maybe otherwise, I mean we don’t know, but I think all of these characters, all these stories, are equally important and vital to this film.

What is your biggest takeaway after completing this film?

AE: The takeaway is that, you know, this really is a human rights issue.

Once that door is opened and once you see the truth, and once you see the science and once you understand that this potentially could save lives, then it really becomes so hard to swallow that this medicine is not accessible to everyone, is incredibly expensive, is not covered by insurance, is federally illegal —

RL: No regulations.

AE: — it becomes a human rights violation. It really does.

In the beginning I was kind of like, ‘Oh my, God. This is like Breaking Bad. These parents are driving around and buying medicine from people’s kitchens and this is terrible. What a horrible way to have a sick child and be trying to heal them in this kind of underground way.

I could say for sure from our screening yesterday that the audience was not expecting what they saw. They really were kind of blown away by what they learned, and I think of the full impact that I think this film could have. I think this really could be like The Inconvenient Truth of cannabis for many people.