Denver medical marijuana dispensary owner Jim Rice knew there was no way CBS producers could ignore his taped application for their reality TV show Survivor.
"I had, like, twenty pounds of pot surrounding me," he explains. "You know they don't see that every day."
His ploy worked, and Rice, who owns both High Level Health (formerly Discount Medical Marijuana) stores in Denver, is one of eighteen contestants -- and the first person from the medical marijuana industry in the history of Survivor -- going for the $1 million prize this season. The debut episode is set to air on September 14.
Rice worked in finance before spending a few years on the professional poker circuit, then got into MMJ purely as a business venture. But since then, his "eyes have been opened" to the benefits of cannabis, he says: "My frustration is that too often it gets associated with the big ailments like cancer and AIDS, and if you don't have something like that, it's not legitimate. It's frustrating that it's seen as a last option, when it's really something people should be trying early on in the process of healing."
Even before the show's started airing, Rice has caught some criticism in online forums and message boards. He's been called fat, an asshole, a douchebag, a drug-dealing poker player. There's even a forum on the Survivor Sucks message board devoted to him. He says the vitriol hasn't bothered him too much, but he also said he's anxious about what people will say about him when the broadcasts begin and they'll be able to see how he plays the game.
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Rice can't divulge too many details, but he did let us in on one part of his strategy: He kept quiet about his ties to the MMJ industry. "I didn't tell them, because I was worried they would vote me out or that they wouldn't give me the million dollars at the end," he says. "It's like when someone is prejudiced against women. They don't come out and say they don't like someone because they are a woman; they vote them off for being too weak or not give them the million dollars."
It wasn't until after the show had finished taping that he told his fellow competitors about the business he was in. As he remembers it, "Some people were like, 'Why didn't you tell me? I probably would have liked you more.'"
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Though Rice enjoys the outdoors and considers himself an active guy, spending many days and nights living in primitive conditions on a tropical island was a stretch. "I'm not really a camper," he says. "You're more likely to find me drinking a beer or playing volleyball in Wash Park than at the top of a fourteener."
Below is a video of Rice in a promo spot for CBS:
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana reviewer William Breathes: Yes, I do inhale."