Cleveland High School student marijuana use shown in documentary

The Cleveland Clarion – September 28, 2015

See – Teen pot use documentary gets Oregon grad into college, KGW.com

A documentary film endeavoring to show “weed culture” at Cleveland by an alumnus has made waves, getting more than 120,000 views on Youtube and making the school community uncomfortable.

2015 graduate Ben Grayzel’s “High School: An Expose On Teenage Cannabis Use” showed students smoking in basements or on the sidewalk at a recognizable spot near the school. The documentary gained traction online after its early summer release on Youtube, getting 120,000 views, according to Grayzel. Local media outlet KGW also did a news story in July about Grayzel and the documentary. But because of potential negative attention, Grayzel took the video off Youtube and put on private, meaning that a link is needed in order to watch the documentary.

“It was fun to have everybody seeing my video, but I’ve moved on. I’m in college now.”

— Ben Grayzel,

Grayzel said he was inspired to make the documentary because “Oregon legalized marijuana, so it is highly relevant.” The documentary showed both sides of weed culture around Cleveland: students talking about how much they smoked, and teachers speaking out about the abuse of the drug and the effects of students coming to class high.

Knowing that there were a variety of viewpoints to express, Grayzel tried to show it through film. “There are a lot of parents that are of the mindset that smoking any weed will kill you, which I think is completely false. At the same time there are kids with apathy that think that because it isn’t as bad as other drugs it is ok to abuse it,” he said.

The documentary received a fair amount of controversy after its release. It naturally cast a negative light on the school community and put students who are minors in the spotlight of doing an illegal activity. Grayzel blurred the faces of students who spoke; however, the blur technique was not professional enough for people to not recognize them.

On this, Grazel said, “The facial blurs are not professional obviously. I should have done a better job. I hadn’t anticipated the amount of views the video would get. If you know the people, then the facial blurs don’t protect the identity, but I don’t believe you would recognize them on the street.”

Another issue that came up as a result of the documentary: the power of the Internet. Grayzel said the documentary began as a class project to take an honest look at the drug subculture, and was not planned to be released to the media.

“Originally it was for a college application, and I worked on it partially during independent media production class. KGW wanted to do a news story and I agreed.” He stated that he didn’t think he “misrepresented any of that,” in response. The article on KGW’s website, called “Teen pot use documentary gets Cleveland grad in college,” published last July, furthered the video’s visibility, but by the time the story aired, it had already reached 120,000 views.

The documentary helped Grayzel get accepted to Quest University in Canada. This has led some to believe he used the participants in the documentary for his own self advancement. “I don’t know if it was entirely because of the video, but I was accepted to the college of my choice and received some financial aid for the documentary,” he said.

A few Cleveland staff members were involved in the documentary as well. Camille Adana, a health teacher, was approached by Grayzel and was interviewed in the documentary, but declined to comment for this article saying, “I just want to protect Cleveland.” Jeff Zerba, also a health teacher, was interviewed for the documentary and also did not wish to comment for this article due to the fact that he had not seen the video, but was aware of the controversy surrounding it.

Principal Tammy O’Neil, who began her tenure at Cleveland just as the video was gaining notoriety, had to answer “questions about protocols for students under the influence” at school, and was clarifying these protocols with teachers at the start of the school year. She had this to say about the documentary: “How can we work with students guiding them to healthy choices regarding drugs and alcohol?” She also wanted students to think before they posted on the Internet. “Anything that goes on the Internet, would it be something they would want their own children to see?”

The Clarion reached out to multiple students who were involved and were featured in the documentary while writing this story. All declined to comment on this story. Grayzel told KGW that he was planning to put the video back up in fall, however as of press time, he still has not. “I put it on private because I didn’t want anything bad to happen to the people featured in it. One student was concerned that a college scholarship would be revoked if a coach saw it,” said Grayzel. “It was fun to have everybody seeing my video, but I’ve moved on. I’m in college now.”