Krishna Andavolu makes a show about weed. Two whole seasons of it, with a third on the way.
But he’s not some sandal-wearing hippy with a blunt fuming between finger and thumb. Andavolu is a pretty ordinary dude – American, Gen Y, a dad, bearded, a hipster in kind of a loose sense. He might describe himself, modestly, as "woke" (a slang term for someone aware of the big social issues).
He smoked pot in college, and says it was fun but hardly life-defining. He still takes an occasional puff of the devil’s lettuce, and has a prescription for medicinal marijuana to help with some kind of back problem.
The most baked he’s been was at a Snoop Dogg concert. Andavolu managed to get backstage, where he was handed a joint by Snoop’s uncle. "I felt like I was in a spaceship taking off," he says.
"I wouldn’t say I’m a huge stoner."
So what attracts a guy like him, who doesn’t have any special kind of relationship with marijuana, to make three seasons of 40-minute documentaries about it?
Andavolu says he’s just "seizing the moment".
"Especially in the United States, this is a seismic moment for the way our culture approaches marijuana. For the longest time it was something illegal, it was something for stoners, it was a persecuted subculture.
"Now it is coming face to face and in direct contact with mainstream culture. And seeing the winners and losers in that transition, and seeing how weed culture is affected as a result of that and then how mainstream culture is affected as a result of that is a real fertile ground for human interest storytelling.
"It’s like the end of prohibition of alcohol. If I could be transported back in time there and hang out with the Seagram family, and see what it was like, I would do it in a heartbeat."
For Andavolu, marijuana offers a fresh angle into some of the defining issues of our era. Each episode of his Viceland show, Weediquette, looks at a different way weed affects the way people live.
For the show’s first episode, he interviewed families using potent cannabis oil to medicate their children – some as young as two – who had cancer. That episode was a follow-up to an earlier story he’d done on the issue – a story which made it clear to him that marijuana could be relevant to more than just stoners.
"That’s when I was like, holy shit, this is about life and death. This is about whether people are going too far in their advocacy for marijuana, this is about people’s hopes and dreams and lives crystallised in a single decision, in a single moment," Andavolu says.
In the show, marijuana is often a conduit to examine bigger issues. One example is the story of Bernard Noble, a black man from New Orleans who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for possessing two joints.
Andavolus says Noble’s story highlight’s some of America’s biggest problems. "If you follow his story, all the excesses and tragedies of mass incarceration and the war on drugs and its racist prosecution, you see them clearly."
Too often Andavolu sees marijuana stories reported poorly – sensationalised and condemned by mainstream media, or championed by alternative news sites. Rarely are they approached with the kind of journalistic rigour he tries to bring to Weediquette.
"What I’ve found for the most part is if you dig as hard as you can into the bad side of it, or at least ask the clear questions that arise from its usage, it makes what’s happening with these people that do believe in pot even more interesting," he says. "I think people like weed, but then people also like smart takes on what weed is."
The job’s not all serious journalism, however. Making the show has seen Andavolu undertake some interesting journalistic experiments. In the stoned kids episode, for example, he tried for himself some of the oil they were taking. Although Andavolu’s dose was only a tenth of what the kids were getting, he spent the afternoon on another planet.
Although that was fun, it raised its own issues – if a small dose sends Andavolu into a spin, what’s it doing to these kids?
"I think that’s kind of what you realise when you watch the show, it’s like okay, this is a pot show, but it’s about some of the foundational values of what I believe in, or what we believe as a society, and how those values are articulated in our laws and our practices."
News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Weediquette’s Krishna Andavolu Is Serious About Marijuana
Author: Jack Van Beynen
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