Host Krishna Andavolu talks about what he's learned while investigating pot culture in the US and what the future of weed might look like.
Wednesday night—a.k.a. tonight—VICELAND's Weediquette returns for its third season, which sees host Krishna Andavolu traversing across the United States to explore the emergent issues facing marijuana culture and its participants. In advance of the premiere, we sat down with Andavolu to talk about what to expect in the new season, whether the show's focus shifted after Trump's election, and what he's learned about pot culture while hosting the show.
VICE: What were you taking into consideration when picking the stories you'd cover for this season?
Krishna Andavolu: We were looking for stories of people's lives that are hanging in the balance when it comes to whether pot is legal or illegal. We were surprised at the renewed focus on what marijuana means in the Trump administration. There was some time where it was considered a matter of time that federal legalization would happen, but that's been stopped in its tracks. We've been looking for the ways that marijuana culture and the values that define it intersect with what's odious about what's happening in our halls of power. Marijuana culture is anti-authoritarian—it's about calling things hypocritical when you see it and individual liberty versus the false goods that people are trying to sell you. We're trying to match up stories that express what marijuana culture is, in opposition to the culture that politics seems to be at today.
You guys started work on the new season before the election, too.
Yeah. The first episode is about deportations, and how even if you're a legal resident of the country and you get caught with marijuana in places where it's illegal, thanks to the system of information sharing between local and federal authorities, you can be deported. We follow the story of a family who's been split apart as the result of a pot arrest—you see at every moment that there's a kind of injustice that's being performed on citizens of this country because pot is still illegal. We conceived of that story prior to the election, but it became a renewed focus once the new administration took power. It expresses what we believe pot culture is about: community, empathy, and not demonizing an other, but accepting the other as a part of yourself.
The second episode is about parents who are finding success in treating their autistic kids with cannabis, struggling to access pot and breaking the law with them as they do it. The third story is about the unintended consequences of legalization and how the flow of pot has stopped going from Mexico and South America into the US, but instead from California to New York. The fourth story is about stoned driving, which is a really interesting intellectual conundrum when it comes to what it means to be stoned. Is being high an impairment? The short answer is yes, it can be—but finding what that limit is and punishing people accordingly is very difficult. As it stands now, the state's response to it has to been to punish rather than to try to understand. The fifth episode is about PTSD and trauma in urban communities. While crime across the country has gone down over the past few years, violent and gun-related crime are on rise in cities like St. Louis, Chicago, and Los Angeles. We're investigating how marijuana is helping people cope with that trauma and how both the police and the communities being policed have been affected by that trauma.
Is there a unifying theme that runs throughout this season?
The first season was about family, the second season was about community, and the third season is about resistance—resisting counterfactual arguments and trying to understand what pot means in that context. Also, what are the values that constitute cannabis culture? In every story, we try to see what they are.
As the host of the show, you're also learning about these topics along with your audience. What do you feel like you've learned over the course of making this show?
People feel really hopeful—that the realities they've experienced and lived are being more widely understood. But there's still a lot of basic optimism that the illogic of prohibition will dissolve when it happens. People are excited to share their lives and experiences, because they know that the representation of these issues and the realities they live is how the notions that pot is bad get wiped away.
What kind of stigmas do you think are still associated with pot?
Being stoned means something different for people who get stoned than it does for people who don't get stoned. The actual phenomenological state of stoned-ness is in itself a political act, and until the people who get stoned are in power, the first option for any government entity will be to punish people rather than try to understand what they're going through. Weed has taken on a renewed political importance, and it's something that needs to be fought for as a way of marshaling people together.