Streaming giant Netflix has purchased the rights to “Highland,” a documentary series produced by Coconut TV about marijuana in Thailand. The series is directed by William Mitchell.
The show covers marijuana culture in Thailand, highlighting legalization efforts that have grown in recent years. Cannabis has been grown and used in Southeast Asia for centuries, but its demand as a recreational substance wasn’t prevalent until the 1960’s, when war brought thousands of US soldiers to Southeast Asia. The series covers this history and the influence of US drug policy on Thailand.
A recent poll showed that 80 percent of respondents favored legalizing marijuana. The Minister of Justice Gen Paiboon Koomchaya has suggested removing marijuana from its list of prohibited drugs and legalizing it as a “household herbal plant,” but conservative groups and religious organizations are still against legalization, believing that drug use has moral implications.
This is the second show that Netflix has picked up that covers cannabis culture. “Disjointed” was released earlier this month, which depicts a marijuana dispensary owner and her experience as a cannabis advocate. In comparison, “Highland” promises to take a more serious look at marijuana legalization.
The show has a docuseries-type style that has become popular by a newer audience that prefers to stream television content.
Previously, the topic of marijuana on both network and cable television has been limited to reality shows, 60-minute specials and the occasional antics of Conan O’Brien or Jimmy Kimmel. But that is starting to change.
The most recent Gallup poll reported 58 percent of the country supports cannabis legalization, and some states have had medical marijuana programs for over a decade. It is a consistent topic of conversation on social media and in presidential debates. Seeing that marijuana is part of millions of American’s lives, tv networks are starting to test the waters.
HBO is seeing the genius in High Maintenance, an already-successful web series on Vimeo. While the politics of an independent web series becoming property of an entertainment juggernaut has sparked debate among fans, HBO has ordered six episodes with the potential for more.
It is worth noting that many of the new projects are using legal marijuana dispensaries as a backdrop to their stories. Parks & Recreation’s Adam Scott is set to produce a show for NBC along with his wife, producer Naomi Scott, about life in a legal Colorado dispensary. Kevin Smith is so excited about his show “Hollyweed” that he foot the bill for the pilot. It also centers around life in a marijuana dispensary, and is being sponsored by companies within the cannabis industry. Margaret Cho is part of Highland, a series for Amazon about life in a dispensary owned by her parents. This show will have more of a dramatic bent, with Cho’s character attending court-ordered rehab.
A script co-written by Chuck Lorre and David Javerbaum is being shown to major networks and direct-to-consumer providers like Netflix. The plot involves an ensemble cast of coworkers at a Colorado dispensary. Lorre and Javerbaum have 24 emmys between them, which might be enough to convince networks to pick up the show.
These projects involve enough influential actors, producers and networks to signify that cannabis culture will start to appear in mainstream entertainment more frequently. Stay tuned.