Growers and law enforcers are at odds in Discovery Channel's Weed Country, which takes place in California's ever-expanding Emerald Triangle. But after six episodes, what did we really learn?
The network that brings us Moonshiners sees a similar theme with Weed Country - be it illegal alcohol or marijuana production, the battle lines are drawn between the outlaw culture and the authorities, who are usually a few steps behind on their trail (except from the air in helicopters, where outdoor grows are easy to spot).
Episode 1 introduced Mike and Tawni Boutin, who run Grace Farms Collective in Trinity County. Tawni's the grower, Mike moves the product (a big chunk of the episode was devoted to his harrowing road trip carrying six pounds). Down in Vallejo, Matt Shotwell was dealing with the legal ramifications of his dispensary, Greenwell Collective, being raided and shut down. On the othe side were Siskiyou County Sheriiff John Lopey and Sgt. Mike Gilley, who commanded the marijuana action team (they're the ones swooping down in the copters), as well as Jackson County (Oregon) SWAT team leader Lt. Matt Thomson.
In Episode 2, Shotwell went shopping for outdoor marijuana and met legendary grower B.E. Smith.
Arrested for cultivation in 1999, Smith still tends pot plants on his property in Trinity County. "I've done time because I'm out in front and they've got to take someone down," he told Matt Shotwell, who arrived from Vallejo in search of high-quality medical-grade cannabis. "If you want justice, go to a whorehouse," Smith says knowingly. "If you want to get fucked, go to a court house."
Smith ultimately turned down Shotwell's offer, but not before letting him check out his luscious garden featuring Arcata Trainwreck.
In Episode 3, Nate Morris' medical-marijuana grow got raided and the county cops found a pretty significant plot in the woods. Shotwell approached Mike Boutin, hoping to make a deal, but Boutin was just too paranoid, worrying about every passing car, neighbor and copter to commit.
The next three episodes played out the same storyline: Would the Boutins sell to Shotwell? Would the authorities actually arrest anyone? What turned out to be most compelling was Morris, who makes a CBD-rich tincture and provided it to a mother for her child who has seizures. It's also intersting that the charges against Shotwell were dismiissed by a Vallejo judge during the airing of the series. Perhaps his anger is justified.
We've seen this same dynamic played out in countless TV documentaries on CNBC, National Geography and PBS. Cops chasing down growers is an old story by now, and in California almost a moot point. As long the grower doesn't exceed county limits, there shouldn't be a problem. Surely some do, but probably not by a lot. The idea of going after guerrilla cartel operations in National Forests sounds good, but as the authorites say over and over in Weed Country they can only do so much with limited resources. The battle is being lost evey day as long as marijuana remains illegal. Ending prohibition will cancel out the black market and send the cartels back to Mexico. But Weed Country doesn't discuss this, it just wants to titlate viewers with luscious plant closeups and the threat of something actually happening. That why they call it reality TV - very little of consequence ever happens.