Forget Shark Week. It’s time for Weed Week.
VICELAND, the TV network from VICE News magazine, is celebrating the unofficial stoner holiday of 4/20 by dedicating the better part of the coming week to all things cannabis.
“I think Weed Week represents how Viceland is just being real about weed,” said Vice correspondent Krishna Andavolu. “People love it, and it’s a really interesting subject. And it’s only natural to do this the week of 4/20.”
Andavolu hosts the network’s popular documentary series “Weediquette,” which is helping to define cannabis culture by sharing stories of people impacted by the plant.
The series kicks off its third season April 19, smack in the middle of Weed Week. The week – which the network has promoted with weed-filled storefronts in Los Angeles and New York – will also feature episodes of “Bong Appétit.” And it’ll wrap with a special 4/20 episode of Action Bronson’s show.
As evidence mounts that the Trump Administration could reignite the War on Drugs, Andavolu said the timing for both Weed Week and the next season of his show feels right.
“For the longest time, legalization at the national level felt like it was just a matter of time. Now it’s looking like there may be a serious road bump there,” he said. “But there is still so much to celebrate about how far it has come.”
“Weediquette” started as an online series about marijuana culture, which Andavolu would make between covering other topics as a journalist for VICE.
In the first short documentary, he went with a Dutch seed grower to rebel-held territory in Columbia in search of rare genetics for the cannabis farmer to add to his seed library. The second online episode featured desperate parents giving their kids high doses of THC in hopes of curing their cancer.
By then, the audience was hooked and Andavolu’s fate as the weed host was sealed.
“For a while I was a little bummed out. I thought, ‘I don’t want to get stuck on the pot beat,’” he said.
But as he started traveling the world in search of the next cannabis story, he realized how big the story really is, with cannabis a lens to tell tales of police brutality and injustices in the prison system, economic inequality and gaps in the healthcare system.
Today, he said, “I couldn’t think of a better topic to be covering right now.”
The third season starts by tackling one of the most hot-button issues of the day: immigration. The episode “Deported for Dope” sheds light on the stories of immigrants who’ve faced deportation for simple cannabis possession – even if they were in a legal weed state, since marijuana remains federally illegal.
In the second episode, Andavolu and his team tackle families who are using cannabis oil to treat children with severe autism – sometimes in defiance of state and federal laws.
“We’re capturing people at the crux of some conflict or some big decision or as something political unfolds,” Andavolu said. “Cannabis really connects bigger issues with everyday reality.”
The reality of the stigma still attached to cannabis struck home for Andavolu just before the first season debuted. He’d traveled to Uruguay, which was the first nation to legalize marijuana, and ended up smoking a joint on camera with the president. Before that first episode aired, he knew he had to give his traditional Indian-American mother a heads-up.
“She was not happy to hear that,” he said.
But Andavolu knows he’s not alone in that experience, and he’s proud of the chance to show that cannabis consumption doesn’t have to be something that you hide from your family.
“When I think about my journey on the show, I think it’s indicative on national larger scale of what’s happening in living rooms across the country,” he said.
They tackle some heavy topics, but there are moments of levity in “Weediquette.”
In one episode of season three, Andavolu gets super stoned and then gets behind the wheel of a race car on a closed-off track to explore how tough it is to determine when marijuana consumers are too impaired to drive.
“It was a really weird and thrilling and fun thing to do,” he said.
The goal is to have a show that reflects the diversity of how cannabis makes people feel, he said, with episodes that are light juxtaposed with episodes that are challenging and introspective.
Cannabis fans should clearly enjoy the show. But Andavolu said they hope viewers who aren’t immersed in that world can also absorb some of the compassion, humanity and tendency to question authority that are bedrocks of cannabis culture.
“If those three ideas can become more part of the mainstream,” he said, “that can only be a benefit.”
Weed Week starts April 17 and runs through April 20 on the VICELAND news channel. The third season of “Weediquette” debuts on the channel at 10 p.m. April 19.