5 reasons to watch N.J. journalist’s Weediquette’ show about marijuana culture

Weediquette.jpg
Krishna Andavolu hosts the new series ‘Weediquette’ on the just-born Viceland channel. (Viceland)

Amy Kuperinsky | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comBy Amy Kuperinsky | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 01, 2016 at 4:30 PM, updated March 02, 2016 at 9:03 AM

Vice, the media company with a stronghold among millennials, launches its new Viceland TV channel this week with a slate of shows including “Weediquette,” a series that examines marijuana culture.

And Krishna Andavolu knows what you’re thinking — of course Vice would have a show about weed.

Still, it’s not the marijuana — not even the THC or the cannabis oil — that the series seeks to truly illuminate.

1. It’s about people, not just weed

The faces and families behind the weed form the core of the show, says Andavolu, the series’ host, a Vice regular who grew up in Mercer County.

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Children relying on cannabis to help them beat cancer. A man spending more than a decade in prison after being found with two marijuana joints. Veterans allaying symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. All get their moment in “Weediquette,” a string of eight one-hour documentaries premiering 11 p.m. Tuesday (March 1) on Viceland, the new cable network available on Fios, Optimum, Xfinity, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable as well as Sling TV and Apple TV.

weediquette-viceland.JPGAndavolu grew up a ‘straight-edge nerd’ in Princeton. (Viceland)

“In my mind it has a lot of seriousness to it, a lot of rigor,” he says of the show, which hones in on characters for whom cannabis is more than a talking point. “We’re going well past Harold and Kumar and Cheech and Chong and stereotypes of what a weed show can be,” he says.

2. Now is a pivotal time for marijuana 

Giving the ever-changing conversation around the legalization of marijuana and administration of medical marijuana, Andavolu sees this as a time of transition and revolution in marijuana culture and business.

“The main goal of the show is to be a faithful and human chronicle of the time,” says Andavolu, 33, who grew up in Princeton. The Princeton Day School alumnus was a self-described “straight-edge” nerd who found marijuana in college.

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“I saw it as a natural right of the American teenager,” Andavolu says. “It wasn’t like I always wanted to make stories about this.”

He studied history at Wesleyan University before hosting the travel show “All the Wrong Places” for Vice and becoming Vice.com’s weekend editor in 2012.

3. It’s part of Viceland’s big launch

Andavolu’s “Weediquette” video series on Vice.com — launched by a documentary called “Kings of Cannabis,” about a major marijuana purveyor’s quest for genetically pure cannabis strains in Colombia — became the inspiration for the TV show.

The series joins the fledgling Viceland lineup, which includes “Noisey,” a music show named after Vice’s online music channel, “Flophouse,” a show about the offstage lives of stand-up comedians, “Gaycation,” starring actress Ellen Page and her best friend on a journey to explore global LGBTQ cultures, and “F*ck, That’s Delicious,” a food series hosted by Action Bronson, a rapper and former chef.

4. It’s not a dry documentary

Andavolu’s pitch to writer-director Spike Jonze, Viceland’s creative director, involved an anecdote from his previous coverage. While in Uruguay — which in 2013 became first country to legalize marijuana — he found himself lighting up in front of the president. All in the name of journalism, he says.

Thee Vice team didn’t want “dry scientific journalism,” says Andavolu, who worked on “Weediquette” for 15 months.

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In the first episode, called “Stoned Kids” (available in the clip below or on the Viceland website) Andavolu visits an Oregon barbecue for children who have cancer. Seeing kids on a cannabis high from marijuana gummy candy “weirds” him out. Andavolu’s observation is compounded by a slow-motion visual of wide-eyed children jumping in an inflatable bounce castle. Some families swear by cannabis oil as a way to shrink tumors and help send terminal illnesses into remission by guarding the body against the destructive, yet necessary effects of chemotherapy. But they lament that without clinical trials for cannabis oil, their kids are essentially guinea pigs.

5. It can change minds

In a scene from the show’s preview, Andavolu calls his mother and mentions the subject of his new show; she is none too happy. His parents, both medical doctors in the Princeton area, don’t tend to associate marijuana with hippie culture, but don’t advocate its recreational use, either.

“Their relationship to weed is ‘don’t do it,'” he says. Still, he believes “Weediquette,” by showing the potential of marijuana — and the consequences of the war on drugs — can appeal to a demographic beyond Vice’s core millennial audience.

“The mindset around weed is based on old stigmas based on bad information, basically,” Andavolu says. While he acknowledges that misconceptions about marijuana and medical marijuana continue to dog those who rely on cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD, he thinks a character-driven approach to the topic has the potential to expand horizons.

“I think it’s the kind of show that I would want to watch with my mom,” he says.

For information on how to find Viceland on TV, visit vice.com/read/how-to-watch-viceland

Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup. Find NJ.com Entertainment on Faceboo

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