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.
Netflix has launch “Disjointed,” a comedy where the family business is a cannabis dispensary.
Kathy Bates stars as Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, a cannabis advocate who manages her pot shop with, “three budtenders, her 20-something son, and a deeply troubled security guard,” who suffers from PTSD after his deployment in Afghanistan. The ensemble cast will portray life in a legal cannabis setting, with all its excitement and turbulence.
The show is helmed by Chuck Lorre Productions, whose other hits include The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. The script spent six months couch-surfing around to different networks until it was snatched up by Netflix, who made the announcement in July. Lorre is credited as Executive Producer and co-writer with David Javerbaum, formerly of The Daily Show.
Disjointed is the newest addition to tv shows that center around marijuana culture. Showtime was one of the first networks to feature a show where marijuana was a major theme, but the focus was more on the aspects and taboo of drug dealing. HBO’s High Maintenance was originally a web series that made the leap to television, and it uses a marijuana delivery person to drive the storyline in each episode. This treatment normalizes the presence of cannabis in daily life, something that shows like Broad City are also fond of doing.
Disjointed will be one of the first major television shows to portray a legal cannabis business, along with a talented cast who can shed light on the realities of the marijuana industry. MTV’s Mary + Jane has also covered this ground with two female “ganja-preneurs” in Los Angeles who run their own delivery service.
More cannabis-themed TV shows are in the works. Naomi and Adam Scott are still developing Buds for NBC, a comedy whose backdrop is a dispensary in Colorado. Margaret Cho’s Highland will appear on Amazon’s streaming service, and will bring her beloved mother’s character to a dispensary setting. Last summer, it was announced that John Malkovich would be starring in Humboldt, a Sony Pictures Television drama that is inspired by Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier, a best-selling novel by Emily Brady.
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.
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