Free the Tree

My dad and I with family, friends and a dedicated crew started shooting The Moneytree in 1986. It had never been done before. People thought we were crazy because they were sure we would go to jail… a real story, about a real grower with real marijuana. Come to think of it was kinda crazy…but that did not stop us. 

We had friends being thrown in jail for using cannabis for medicine or just for a good time and that was bullshit. Now you have to understand back in the prohibition days a bag of weed would get you ten years in a federal prison. I caught a case for 4 plants a foot tall and 8 seedlings. That’s right I have a felony for cultivation but that was after the film came out; back to the story.       

We were determined, it took six year and in 1991 The Moneytree premiered in The Mill Valley Films Festival to sold out crowds. Newline, Paramount and Warner Bros all passed …to controversial to hot to handle. So we brought it to the people, we distributed the film ourselves city to city, town to town like the circus; we got great reviews so we thought we would march across the nation.

We were about to go national when we opened in LA to a great review from the LA Times…. and then… they announced the “not guilty” verdict for the racist beating of Rodney King and the city exploded in flames. They chained the doors of the theater shut... that crushed us; we didn’t have the money to re-advertise. LA is a very expensive market. All our efforts to bring The Moneytree to the people went up in smoke that night.

We were so close…it was painful…in retrospect ….I wouldn’t change anything it made me the man I am today. It wasn’t our time. The Moneytree went into hibernation and besides we were tired… tired of fighting with all the haters… on both sides pro and con. I needed to rest so I did for 25 years.

Now it’s true some things have changed in some places and in other places folks are still getting locked up for possession, growing or using cannabis. We were clearly ahead of time. We had to wait for things to change, for our audience to be born, for they’re to be an awaking.

Fast forward to today, completely digitally re-mastered from camera negative (looking light years better than the original), re-edited for a modern audience, all new Dolby 5.1 surround mix (original mix was in mono) all new killer music – reggae, world beat, jazz and rock and roll. We are also adding voice over, shifting the context – from the present time - looking back to the days of prohibition, the old Wild West days of growing weed in California. This voice over adds a whole new narrative, really deepens the story. Think Forest Gump, Blade Runner, Fight Club or The Grand Budapest. In effect we are creating a whole new film…

The Moneytree - Final Trim.  It’s going to be amazing. 

As we open The Moneytree across the nation we will have Political Advocacy events with members of the community, politicians, patients, dispensaries and entrepreneurs to discuss Cannabis now. Debate and conversation can inform political discourse and create change. We will do our part to help decriminalize Cannabis.

If you like what we’re doing, support truly independent filmmaking, become part of our effort to entertain and inspire the decriminalization of Cannabis.  We have all kinds of ways of expressing our gratitude for your help!  

We have a lot of work to do. Help us make it happen!

Join us. Free The Tree!


Christopher Dienstag and the Production Team of Black Sheep Films