Weed Wars In December 2011, Discovery Channel aired the first episode of their new documentary-reality series Weed Wars. The show takes a look behind the scenes at California's largest marijuana dispensary, the Harborside Health Center. The first episode sets the scene and introduces the characters in the city of Oakland, where the Harbor Side Health Center is located.
California law allows medicinal cannabis patients to possess up to 226g of cannabis and cultivate up to six mature plants (plus 12 at the vegetative stage), and caregivers are allowed to possess and grow the same amounts for each patient in their care.
Under Proposition 215, Harborside Health Center is able to provide medical marijuana to patients who have a prescription for cannabis and have designated the clinic as their lawful provider. The cooperative is currently the legal caregiver of some 94,000 registered medical marijuana patients.
A father turns to medical cannabis to help his son
In the second episode, the camera follows Jason, the father of a small boy diagnosed with Dravet’s syndrome, an extremely rare and debilitating form of epilepsy.
Jayden suffered his first seizure at the age of 4 months. Now 5 years old, he is subject to frequent seizures that can last for hours.
Jayden is prescribed a cannabis tincture which is rich in CBD (a non-psychoactive cannabinoid produced by cannabis) which has antioxidant and neuroprotective properties which are still being studied. The tincture contains no THC, the most well-known cannabinoid) and thus no psychoactive effect.
While helping to administer Jayden’s first treatment, Jason states to camera: “I’m not trying to get my son high; I’m trying to cure my son’s seizures”.
Upon his return to the clinic, Jason tells of the amazing improvements to the health of his son after only 4 days of treatment. “These four days were the best four days of the last four years.” Jayden has not had a seizure since the beginning of the treatment.
Recent crackdown on medicinal cannabis dispensaries
The second episode also highlights the recent crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries by the federal government and the IRS, as well as the reaction of Harborside’s owner Steve DeAngelo to these measures.
Harborside has become well known across the nation since the US Treasury and IRS filed a claim seeking USD $2.4 million in back taxes from the dispensary. Because the US federal government, against all evidence, continues to classify cannabis as a drug “without therapeutic value” the disputed revenue is claimed to be tax on profits made from the sale of illegal products.
“What kind of drug trafficking organization actually files a tax return?” asks DeAngelo. He goes on to say that Harborside aims to “make [medicinal marijuana] safe, seemly and responsible” – a point of view which is becoming more common among people who have experience of therapeutic cannabis.
It’s too early to say whether the ideas of Steve DeAngelo and Harborside Health Center will have an impact on US federal medicinal marijuana policy. If their record remains flawless they could well play a part in changing the views of the general public, which is an extremely important step towards ending prohibition.