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Out of the “Weeds”: How Will Hollywood Portray the Marijuana Business in a Legalized World?

| Oct 17, 2016 | Articles, News

by Michael Chernis
via Huffington Post

Read this post here: Huffington Post

In shows such as “Weeds” and “High Maintenance,” Hollywood has portrayed people illegally buying and selling marijuana in sometimes titillating, sometimes life-threatening situations.

Of course, all those story lines in “Weeds” and “High Maintenance” are a long way from the days of “Reefer Madness” back in the 1950s. But as California and other states increasingly legalize the sale and possession of marijuana, even these relatively recent shows will look antiquated.

Instead of worrying about cartels and cops, deadbeat customers and dangerous robbers, the biggest challenges facing the marijuana vendors of the future will increasingly be the kinds of challenges facing less controversial businesses, except with the twist that those ordinary business challenges relate to cannabusiness, which adds a different dimension to the challenge.

Proposition 64 in California will legalize recreational marijuana use, and further legitimize commercial cultivation and sale. It’s the most important of the five state legalization measures on the ballot this year, given size of the state’s economy and relative consumer market for cannabis, as well as the fact California tends to lead the nation in cultural shifts. With about one in eight Americans living there, and an economy that would rank eighth in the world by GDP if it were a separate country, California is indeed practically a nation-state of its own.

All five legalization measures are leading in polls right now (though the polls are mixed in Nevada). Should they all pass, it will quintuple the percentage of the country’s population (to 25 percent) living in states where marijuana sales have been legalized for recreational as well as medical purposes.

Just as importantly, California is home to Hollywood’s film and TV industry. The writers of those shows and movies will have a much different perspective to work from should Prop. 64 pass. Let’s imagine what Hollywood screenwriters would make of a pot industry facing the shifting challenges of legalization.

In “Weeds,” for instance, Mary-Louise Parker played Nancy Botwin, a widowed suburban mom who turns to illegal marijuana sales to take care of her family and life.

In a post-Prop. 64 era, Botwin might open a local storefront selling marijuana, or go to work in one, but unlike how it played out in the show, a future Botwin could get a real job, or start a real business, that pays taxes and includes protections for workers. But Botwin would likely still have to navigate various threats and challenges, such as armed robbers, the IRS, and bankers.

The storylines might not appear as exciting at first blush (“Nancy needs a small business loan!” or “Nancy deals with a problem employee!”) but within the context of marijuana being the product, those challenges will be much more interesting. There will also be no shortage of interesting customers and consumers, from all walks of life, that will provide tremendous storytelling fodder.

There already are Hollywood attempts to portray the business in somewhat different fashion. Viceland, the new TV network backed by Vice, has an entire documentary series called “Weediquette,” which looks at many corners of the emerging marijuana industry.

One recent episode, “Reefer Rehab,” ( focuses on a rehab facility in the woods of Maine that treats opiate and heroin addicts with large doses of marijuana and its active ingredient, THC.

While Vice has always tended to focus on the outlier corners of any issue, a piece such as this shows marijuana being used to try to save people’s lives. While that’s it’s own kind of drama, it’s also a step forward for Hollywood and marijuana in a post-Prop. 64 era.

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