The story begins in a former moonshine holler in the hills of Tennessee alongside the Natchez Trace, a place called Trace View Farm. It was formerly owned by Betye Kelley, the county midwife, and her husband. Over her lifetime she birthed over 500 babies and according to Bernie Ellis, the current resident, only lost one.
This is the story of Bernie Ellis
This is Bernie’s story though, told as only he can tell it.
Nashville press once called him “Tennessee’s favorite felon.” He has endeared himself to hundreds of people in his community over the years that have come to know his story and love him.
When he asked people he knew to step forward and write a letter on his behalf for his court case to restore citizenship rights, hundreds did so including the owner of the local town diner and the county sheriff.
The day that changed his life
Bernie was bush hogging a pasture in 2002 when he noticed a helicopter circling above him.
When it lowered to just over the treetops in a tight circle, he knew his life was about to change forever.
Trace View farm was raided by the police that day and over one hundred mostly small cannabis plants were confiscated as evidence by the police. For almost 15 years, Bernie had been growing medical marijuana. Besides using it himself for his own ailments, including a degenerative spine and fibromyalgia, he was providing it for free to terminal AIDS and Cancer patients that he knew or who were referred to him.
Turns out, Bernie knew a lot of them. He worked, before his arrest, for the Tennessee Department of Health and then the CDC, setting up Tennessee’s AIDS program during the height of the epidemic. He knew a lot of people that were dying and suffering and he also knew pot could help them.
After he admitted growing medical cannabis, Bernie went from earning over $100,000 per year in his field to living on food stamps unable to find work with an arrest record.
Through it all, Bernie stayed sober after battling his own addiction to alcohol and instead of giving up, he reinvented himself as an organic blueberry farmer. As you enjoy a meal at many of Nashville’s fine dining establishments this summer, Bernie’s blueberries will probably be on the dessert menu.
How Bernie saved himself and his farm
This Documentary is about how Bernie saved his farm, saved his own life and continues to fight for social justice and the legalization of medical marijuana to this day. It’s about a community of people that support him in his efforts and about the ghost of Ms. Kelly that watches over him and the beauty of Trace View Farm.
Changing Hearts and Minds
This film is also about changing hearts and minds and changing the law. It is time to overturn the prohibition of a plant. It is time to recognize the benefits of medical marijuana plants that can help a lot of people. The most powerful way to influence people is by actions and by telling stories. It is my hope that by telling Bernie’s story, it can add to this conversation and help bring change in our drug laws in this country.