Past Event

Waiting to Inhale

The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Columbia College Television Department present the free Chicago premiere of Waiting to Inhale.

The post-screening discussion will focus on medical marijuana, its context within the “War on Drugs,” and drug policy reform. Jed Riffe, director and producer of Waiting to Inhale; Melanie Dreher, Dean of the College of Nursing at Rush University; and James Gierach, a former Cook County prosecutor, local advocate for drug policy reform, and featured speaker with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, will appear on the panel. Noted documentarian Gordon Quinn, president and founder of Kartemquin Films, will moderate the discussion.

This event is co-sponsored by the Columbia College Chicago Television Department.

Waiting to Inhale examines the heated debate over marijuana and its use as medicine in the United States. Twelve states have passed legislation to protect patients who use medical marijuana. Yet opponents claim the medical argument is just a smokescreen for a different agenda—to legalize marijuana for recreation and profit. What claims are being made,and what is at stake?

The film takes viewers inside the lives of patients who have been forever changed by illness—and parents who lost their children to addiction. Is marijuana really a gateway drug? What evidence is there to support the claim that marijuana can alleviate some of the devastating symptoms of AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis? Waiting to Inhale sheds new light on this controversy and presents shocking new evidence that marijuana could play a large role in the future of medicine.

For more information about Waiting to Inhale, visit the film’s official website.


Jed Riffe, director and producer of Waiting to Inhale, is an award-winning independent filmmaker, broadcast journalist, and digital media producer. He is the senior producer for Jed Riffe Films, LLC. Over the last 25 years, Riffe has produced numerous highly-acclaimed documentary and dramatic films and interactive projects for PBS, NHK-TV (Japan), cable, international broadcast, and the web. He produced and directed Ishi, The Last Yahi , a dramatic documentary film, which won six Best Documentary awards, was released theatrically in 35mm, nominated for a national EMMY and broadcast on The American Experience. Riffe’s documentary film, Who Owns the Past?, was broadcast nationally in the fall of 2001 on the PBS series Independent Lens. Riffe is Series Producer of California and the American Dream, a four-hour independently-produced, nationally-broadcast PBS Series. Riffe produced, directed, and co-wrote the series’ opening episode, California’s ”Lost” Tribes, and produced the fourth episode, Ripe for Change, with Emiko Omori–who also directed the award-winning film.

Melanie C. Dreher, PhD, RN, FAAN is the Dean of the College of Nursing of Rush University. Dr. Dreher is a nationally recognized leader in nursing education and has led a distinguished career as a researcher on the health and welfare of underserved communities and the influence of culture in patient-provider communication. Dr. Dreher came to Rush from the University of Iowa College of Nursing, where she served as Dean. During her tenure she was instrumental in establishing their Masters in Nursing and Health Care Practice degree, which became the national model for professional nursing education. A past president of the national nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau International, Dreher was paid the tribute of having the “Melanie Dreher Dean’s Award” named in her honor in 2001.

James Gierach is a practicing attorney who has experienced the effect of the war on drugs from both sides of the legal system. As a Chicago prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in the early 1970s, Jim scrutinized and perfected search-warrant complaints for narcotics officers to “make the charges stick” in court. He also worked “homicide court” and witnessed the violence that exists as a direct result of drug prohibition. Referred to as “Illinois’ preeminent conscientious objector” to the war on drugs, Gierach has spent the last dozen years fighting drug prohibition as a candidate for Cook County State’s Attorney and Illinois governor in primary elections and as a featured speaker with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Gordon Quinn is president and founder of Kartemquin Films. During his 35-year career, he has produced an impressive list of documentaries, including the critically acclaimed Hoop Dreams. Recently, he co-directed and co-produced Vietnam, Long Time Coming, which was broadcast on NBC and received a National Emmy and the Directors Guild of America Award. His film GOLUB premiered at the New York Film Festival. He executive produced 5 Girls, which aired on PBS in fall 2001 and is executive producer of Refrigerator Mothers, which was broadcast on PBS in the summer of 2002. Quinn was series executive producer/producer on Kartemquin’s PBS series The New Americans, broadcast in 2003. He is a member of theBoard of Directors at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Advisory Committee of The Public Square at the IHC.

This screening and discussion are part of The Public Square at the IHC’s Civic Cinema program, a series of films, forums, and conversations that uses the most exceptionally creative and engaging documentary films of our times as a springboard for talking about some of the most pressing and challenging social issues facing us.

For more information call 312.422.5580 or e-mail The Public Square.