Weediquette. Viceland. Tuesday, March 1, 11 p.m.
My parents have been gone for more than two decades, but I'm certain I'll hear a chorus of ghostly and grim I-told-you-sos from their direction as this week's television debuts get underway. Shows about drugs! Right on TV! We told you the world was going to Hell in a hippie handbasket!
Weediquette, debuting on the new Viceland network that next week will replace the H2 channel on cable and satellite systems around the country, is the first TV series dedicated to the science, culture and economics of marijuana.
Weediquette, once it gets over its exhibitionist "Millennial Outlaw" sense of itself (among other things, the opening episode includes a lengthy and apparently unintentionally Animal House-ish scene of host Krishna Andavolu getting stoned and babbling about it), may prove an interesting program.
Its premiere episode is a sometimes-disturbing look at medical-marijuana cultists who preach that weed cures cancer. We're not talking about reducing nausea or pain, claims for which there is clinical evidence, but an actual tumor-shrinking cure. Like the laetrile and vitamin-C faithful who came before them, they feverishly parade before the cameras to tell of vanishing lesions and miraculous white-cell counts achieved by the anointing of cannabis hands.
That some loopy adults prefer to map out medical treatment based on purely anecdotal evidence and a weird paranoia about Western medicine is hardly news; snake oil has been with us for a long time. But some of these people are betting the lives of their children on their veneration of dope. Andavolu visits a picnic by Oregon families of pediatric cancer patients whose parents are feeding them marijuana-laced candies or cannabis oil mixed with honey and confesses afterward: "Seeing stoned kids still weirds me out."
Weediquette, however, gets beyond the blather of nut-job stoners. Some of the parents are not crazy, just desperate. When your 8-month-old baby has a brain tumor that isn't responding to conventional treatment, what straw wouldn't you grasp? Especially when—coincidentally or not—her health improves after treatment with cannabis oil.
Perhaps the best point made in Weediquette is that the federal government's insistence on keeping marijuana on Schedule I on the Controlled Substance Act—right alongside heroin and meth—has made clinical trials extremely difficult. "Without clinical trials. we're all guessing," says the father of the baby with brain cancer. "My child's a guinea pig."
The lack of clinical trials has also stoked the paranoia of the weed true-believers, who see themselves as freedom fighters in a holy war on Big Pharma. Like all romantic notions, that one may end on the rocks for a lot of these people. Weediquette ends with a teenaged girl who has stopped her chemotherapy nine months early to rely only on cannabis oil. "Cannabis kills cancer without killing anything else in your body," she declares with teenaged certainty. As the scene fades, she's getting high-fives from the parents at the Oregon picnic. I hope the next time they see her won't be at her funeral.