Although it could have been a snapshot of hardworking people in the cannabis industry, last night's MTV's True Life "I'm in the Marijuana Business" was an hour-long train wreck.
Instead of being shown business people having success in the marijuana industry, all the current MTV generation saw was an abusive relationship, a naive newby and a drug dealer. This was hardly representative of "true life" for most people I know in the legitimate marijuana business.
Gemma and Pa
In Colorado, we're introduced to Gemma and Pa. I know plenty of people approached to do the show (including myself) that either declined or were too old to meet MTV's 28-year-old cutoff, so maybe this is all we were left with.
The two, both former street kids and rail riders, recently moved to Denver because they saw a chance to finally establish a legitimate business around cannabis for themselves. They moved out here during the big pot boom and started Buddha Bar, a weed-infused energy bar.
I'm not a state-ist. I believe everyone should be able to move where they want in this country to make a better life for themselves. But there are literally thousands of people who have been in the Colorado MMJ industry for longer than a few months who had successful businesses that producers could have focused on. For example, I know they followed KindReviews owner Ry Prichard around for a while, but only used the footage for a "webisode."
But nobody's going to even remember the Buddha Bar business from the show after seeing how volatile the two were with each other. That's all I could focus on, myself. The two were getting in arguments constantly to the point where it becomes physical. In once scene, we are shown Pa throwing something at Gemma as she storms out during a fight and Gemma calling the police to their Platte Park apartment because of it. Nothing like associating domestic violence with an industry meant to be about healing and positivity.
I can't blame MTV for airing what they aired. Ignoring their volatile personal life would have been ignoring a big part of their story, and it's not like the two didn't realize there weren't cameras in their home.
I spoke with a tearful Gemma this morning. She was sad, but says she doesn't regret doing the show. What she regrets is how she and Pa were portrayed by the production company that filmed the episode for MTV, Punched in the Head Productions. She takes responsibility for fighting on camera ("that was stupid to do"), but says the producers had a boatload of "positive footage" they could have used. "Cannabis is a wonderful medicine," she said. "And they didn't really see that or give it a positive name." She said herself and Pa aren't together anymore, but that they remain friends.
Calls to the producer for the show were not immediately returned.
It just would have been nice to see a success story instead of the mess we were shown. Medical marijuana is a serious benefit for people and there are a lot of really devoted, positive people in this industry. Not to say Buddha Bar isn't about healing, but choosing to showcasing this couple's dysfunction only furthers people's misconceptions about this plant and the people who use it. But as I said, the producers only used what they were given.
The rest of William's take on MTV's True Life: I'm in the Marijuana Business is on the next page.
What really bugged the shit out of me in the episode was why the producers made one-third of the show about drug dealer Ashes? This woman has nothing to do with the marijuana business.
There's a big distinction that the producers easily trample on by associating her illegal behavior and self-loathing with a legitimate, healing industry. They also happened to choose one of the stupidest criminals you could imagine. Not only does she go on television showing off her illegal activity, she incriminates everyone else in her life by going on the show, including her mother, her girlfriend and her girlfriend's parents. I get it that society has made this plant and the people who use it criminals, and I don't think anyone should be penalized for this plant -- but showing off this person as someone in the "marijuana business" is a stretch.
Chris, a 27-year-old guy originally from the East Coast who moved out to California with a dream of growing and selling weed legally was the third part of the show. His segment was the least-irritating part of the episode.
Chris is clearly inexperienced and blinded by the thought that he can suddenly turn a profit in this industry, but he at least represents some the progressive views that the younger generation of cannabis smokers have. That's not to say his segment didn't show some glaring stupidity as well, including paying thousands to Oaksterdam University for an "education" in pot growing and a scene where he reveals that he's growing without his landlord's knowledge. This isn't necessarily always an issue, but Chris's landlord lives downstairs from him.
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But I appreciated the segment where he told his parents about his choice to be in the industry and they accepted him. I think that was probably more valuable for the current MTV generation to see than any of the rest of his story. Hopefully they can bring up honest conversations with their parents about cannabis like Chris did.
If you haven't seen the episode, or have no idea what I'm talking about, click here to watch the episode in it's entirety.