By Keith Mansur, Oregon Cannabis Connection
"Weed Country", a new reality series about a famous marijuana region in California, premiered Wednesday February 20th on Discovery Channel. In this newest take on the marijuana trade, Discovery Channel takes viewers on a journey through the old "Emerald Triangle" of North West California and its new regions, which stretch clear into Southern Oregon's southern counties where I reside.
After only one episode, it is obviously a typical "non-reality" reality show similar to both Moonshiners and Cops (fair notice: I hate reality TV). Not only does it put a bad light on medical marijuana, it sensationalizes the cops, the growers, and the distributors into a prime example of bad "reality" television.
A major focus of the first episode was on law enforcement officers in the "Triangle" area, and certain Sheriffs to be exact. Some have launched a crusade against marijuana, medical or otherwise.
They also focus on a couple of growers in Northern California who grow and supply medical marijuana to locations south of the "Triangle" and the many issues they face.
In the episode, only six minutes is spent on patients, and only one of them spoke about the difficulty of access to medical marijuana. The two patients were sincere, but hardly typical. One is a Mom who was treating her epileptic son, and the other is an ex-cop from New York City, now living in California, who's condition is helped greatly by cannabis.
Utilizing creative editing, the Discovery Channel went to great lengths insuring an exciting first show. They filmed a "staged" assault by the Jackson County Oregon's SWAT team on an imaginary grow site, supposedly for training purposes. They filmed numerous aerial shots of Oregon grow sites, many of which were clearly legal grows with just 24 plants in some gardens. All the while, officers, including Sheriff Winters of Jackson County Oregon, comment on the size and scale of the grows.
Their editing went overboard when one of the growers starring in the show, Mike Boutin, was headed to Redondo Beach California to deliver a parcel of medicine, a trip the show called a "drug run" down the coast. The narrator explains during the drive that "bandits", as well as police, are problems for couriers on that highway, and of course a suspicious car begins to follow Boutin. He pulls over to the side of the road to let the car pass with a look of concern of his face....The next sound you hear is the sound of a gun cocking, like Boutin is "prepared" for anything! Cut to commercial!
Of course, the car drove right on by.
"That's Bullshit!", I screamed out loud. I don't think he would be carrying a gun, and I'm damn sure he wouldn't cock it unless there was a serious threat, not just a passing car! That was creative editing, for sure.
As it turns out, I was right, as the producers actually exposed themselves later on in the episode.
When Boutin returned home, and his German Shepard did not meet him at the driveway, he displayed extreme concerned. He had left his wife alone with the dog for two days. Boutin explained that if his dog was not there to greet him upon his return, he would get very suspicious. In fact, he was so suspicious, he went to the wood pile...by the house...and grabbed a loaded handgun...from the wood pile...not his car...where he was supposedly "cocking" a hand gun earlier in the trip!
That makes no sense, at all! He would have brandished the gun already in the truck from the moment he stepped out to look around.
The most ridiculous law enforcement statements came from Sheriff Mike Winters, who hates marijuana and thinks it is the downfall of America. He seems to believe he can end the war on drugs, even if he does it alone.
In reference to those who believe in marijuana legalization and controlling it like alcohol, Winters said, "I don't believe it. I've seen a decline, in my opinion, of America from great to good. I don't want to see it decline."
"Drugs are going to be the downfall of this country, and I'm going to stop it," Winters further exclaimed to the camera.
Discovery Channel even edited a segment together with images of Mexican cartel busts, a body on gurney, and images of weapons. It made it appear the medical marijuana grows were creating the problems. In the scene, Sheriff Winters even implied "people" are using MS13 gang members to protect their gardens and that there had been "officer involved" shootings.
MS13 gangs protecting OMMP grows? That's just ridiculous. I know a lot of medical growers, none have heard of such a thing.
As for "officer involved" shootings, From what I found in the past five years in Jackson County, only two marijuana grows that were raided and had shots fired. In both cases, only the police fired their weapons.
In one instance from August 2010, a man, who was believed to be from a Mexican cartel and growing illegally on BLM land, was shot dead by police after they spotted him near the grow. According to reports, the man never fired a shot at police.
The other was a raid on a legal Oregon medical marijuana garden last fall in Gold Hill, Oregon. The only shot fired was, again, by the police, and fired accidentally. The OCC reported on the raid last Aug/Sep 2011 (see it at www.oregoncannabisconnection.com). During the raid, an officer accidentally discharged his weapon into the ground, leaving the bullet behind as a souvenir for the raid victim.
Arguably the most disturbing comments from Winters came the very same day the episode aired on Discovery Channel. On the afternoon before his big network TV debut, he handed pink slips to 66 employees of the Sheriff's department, citing both cutbacks from Federal sources and an unforeseen increase in PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) funding as the problems.
Of course, all of this is due to budget cuts and increased PERS funding he saw coming almost nine months ago. Dave Crosley of PERS said to KTVL TV, "We let employees know in October of 2012, what the rates would be beginning July of this year."
Winters avoids responsibility for the department, and the budget, he has run for 10 years, including their new headquarters which opened last spring in Central Point, Oregon, or their new construction project on the Sheriff's old office in Downtown Medford. Not to mention, catering to Discovery Channel's producers and cameramen, flying helicopters around to locate medical grows, and wasting the departments budget filing lawsuits and appeals to stop legal Oregon marijuana patients from possessing a Concealed Handgun License. (See the OCC Aug/Sep 2011 issue for the story at www.oregoncannabisconnection.com)
Instead, he proposed layoffs during a televised press conference. He warned county residents that there will be fewer rural patrols and an increased response time on calls in some areas. Messing with peoples lives inside the sheriff's department and out seems to make Winters feel powerful. He may call it leadership, but those who understand call it hubris.
With five more episodes to go, and another show filling the time slot in April called "Pot Cops", we can be assured that the law enforcement will get their message across. How can they miss when Discovery Channel sensationalizes everything and makes them out to be heroes that are fighting a battle, and a "winning" battle according to Sheriff Mike Winters.
Weed Country is terrible, and does not favors for the marijuana industry, especially in Oregon. All those wanting to end marijuana prohibition should let them know at Discovery Channel. Visit the "Weed Country" Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/weedcountrydc) and Discovery Channels website (http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/weed-country) to see the show and to let them know how you feel.
The Oregon Cannabis Connection is a bi-monthly publication focused on the Oregon cannabis community. For subscription or location information, visit their website.