“Weed Country,” a six episode mini-series about medical marijuana in California, debuts Wednesday night on the Discovery Channel.
Weed Country highlights the experiences of a brave few entrepreneurs to tell the story of the growth and scale of the California medical marijuana industry and the U.S. pot trade. The Discovery Channel followed dealers, growers, and users in order to offer an inside look at the booming illicit trade. To put one’s business–which involves the daily breaking of federal law–on the line not only takes some brass (to borrow the Clintonian term), but a full-hearted commitment to the issue, which in this case is the federal prohibition on marijuana.
Weed Country’s featured grower Mike Boutin told Reason that it was not only the need for public education that drew him to the program, but his dissatisfaction with local law enforcement in the “Emerald Triangle” of three heavily cultivated California counties. Boutin sees bloated, over-equipped SWAT teams and Sheriff’s departments kicking in the doors to family homes, brandishing automatic weapons. Sometimes it’s the wrong home, sometimes someone gets shot. Boutin and other members of the show want to put the war on drugs back in the court of public opinion in a way that probably hasn’t been seen since at least The Wire changed the conversation about national drug policy.
That’s the beautiful thing about television. It allows the viewer to join with their friends and family for private conversation about controversial practices and issues. Weed Country forces the country to confront how the United States security apparatus operates and if a different strategy and set of goals might be more appropriate.
Of course many already have an opinion on the state of marijuana enforcement. Cannabis prohibition touches millions of lives every year. The government funded National Institute on Drug Abuse reported 18.1 million current marijuana users in 2011, a 23% increase from 2007. While Americans in their late teens and twenties are the most frequent users of marijuana, government statistics show increased consumption among baby boomers with usage rates among those aged between 55 and 59 more than tripling in the past decade.
Perhaps the most surprising development to come out of the last election was the successful legalization of adult marijuana use in Washington and Colorado.
As a nation operating under the federal system, the U.S. is capable of offering a plurality of legal regimes. Stratified levels of government with more or less clearly defined spheres of responsibility define the legal landscape of the country. Weed Country is the story of how they’re doing things in California and of a couple of folks who are putting it on the line.