Feb 222013
 February 22, 2013

cannabis plantBy Keith Mansur, Oregon Cannabis Connection

“Weed Country”, a new reality series about a famous marijuana region in California, premiered Wednesday February 20th on Discovery Channel. In this newest take on the marijuana trade, Discovery Channel takes viewers on a journey through the old “Emerald Triangle” of North West California and its new regions, which stretch clear into Southern Oregon’s southern counties where I reside.

After only one episode, it is obviously a typical “non-reality” reality show similar to both Moonshiners and Cops (fair notice: I hate reality TV). Not only does it put a bad light on medical marijuana, it sensationalizes the cops, the growers, and the distributors into a prime example of bad “reality” television.

A major focus of the first episode was on law enforcement officers in the “Triangle” area, and certain Sheriffs to be exact. Some have launched a crusade against marijuana, medical or otherwise.

They also focus on a couple of growers in Northern California who grow and supply medical marijuana to locations south of the “Triangle” and the many issues they face.

In the episode, only six minutes is spent on patients, and only one of them spoke about the difficulty of access to medical marijuana. The two patients were sincere, but hardly typical. One is a Mom who was treating her epileptic son, and the other is an ex-cop from New York City, now living in California, who’s condition is helped greatly by cannabis.

Utilizing creative editing, the Discovery Channel went to great lengths insuring an exciting first show. They filmed a “staged” assault by the Jackson County Oregon’s SWAT team on an imaginary grow site, supposedly for training purposes. They filmed numerous aerial shots of Oregon grow sites, many of which were clearly legal grows with just 24 plants in some gardens. All the while, officers, including Sheriff Winters of Jackson County Oregon, comment on the size and scale of the grows.

Their editing went overboard when one of the growers starring in the show, Mike Boutin, was headed to Redondo Beach California to deliver a parcel of medicine, a trip the show called a “drug run” down the coast. The narrator explains during the drive that “bandits”, as well as police, are problems for couriers on that highway, and of course a suspicious car begins to follow Boutin. He pulls over to the side of the road to let the car pass with a look of concern of his face….The next sound you hear is the sound of a gun cocking, like Boutin is “prepared” for anything! Cut to commercial!

Of course, the car drove right on by.

“That’s Bullshit!”, I screamed out loud. I don’t think he would be carrying a gun, and I’m damn sure he wouldn’t cock it unless there was a serious threat, not just a passing car! That was creative editing, for sure.

As it turns out, I was right, as the producers actually exposed themselves later on in the episode.

When Boutin returned home, and his German Shepard did not meet him at the driveway, he displayed extreme concerned. He had left his wife alone with the dog for two days. Boutin explained that if his dog was not there to greet him upon his return, he would get very suspicious. In fact, he was so suspicious, he went to the wood pile…by the house…and grabbed a loaded handgun…from the wood pile…not his car…where he was supposedly “cocking” a hand gun earlier in the trip!

That makes no sense, at all! He would have brandished the gun already in the truck from the moment he stepped out to look around.

Sheriff Mike Winters Loves Prohibition

Sheriff Mike Winters Loves Prohibition

The most ridiculous law enforcement statements came from Sheriff Mike Winters, who hates marijuana and thinks it is the downfall of America. He seems to believe he can end the war on drugs, even if he does it alone.

In reference to those who believe in marijuana legalization and controlling it like alcohol, Winters said, “I don’t believe it. I’ve seen a decline, in my opinion, of America from great to good. I don’t want to see it decline.”

“Drugs are going to be the downfall of this country, and I’m going to stop it,” Winters further exclaimed to the camera.

Discovery Channel even edited a segment together with images of Mexican cartel busts, a body on gurney, and images of weapons. It made it appear the medical marijuana grows were creating the problems. In the scene, Sheriff Winters even implied “people” are using MS13 gang members to protect their gardens and that there had been “officer involved” shootings.

MS13 gangs protecting OMMP grows? That’s just ridiculous. I know a lot of medical growers, none have heard of such a thing.

As for “officer involved” shootings, From what I found in the past five years in Jackson County, only two marijuana grows that were raided and had shots fired. In both cases, only the police fired their weapons.

In one instance from August 2010, a man, who was believed to be from a Mexican cartel and growing illegally on BLM land, was shot dead by police after they spotted him near the grow. According to reports, the man never fired a shot at police.

The other was a raid on a legal Oregon medical marijuana garden last fall in Gold Hill, Oregon. The only shot fired was, again, by the police, and fired accidentally. The OCC reported on the raid last Aug/Sep 2011 (see it at www.oregoncannabisconnection.com). During the raid, an officer accidentally discharged his weapon into the ground, leaving the bullet behind as a souvenir for the raid victim.

Arguably the most disturbing comments from Winters came the very same day the episode aired on Discovery Channel. On the afternoon before his big network TV debut, he handed pink slips to 66 employees of the Sheriff’s department, citing both cutbacks from Federal sources and an unforeseen increase in PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) funding as the problems.

Of course, all of this is due to budget cuts and increased PERS funding he saw coming almost nine months ago. Dave Crosley of PERS said to KTVL TV, “We let employees know in October of 2012, what the rates would be beginning July of this year.”

Winters avoids responsibility for the department, and the budget, he has run for 10 years, including their new headquarters which opened last spring in Central Point, Oregon, or their new construction project on the Sheriff’s old office in Downtown Medford. Not to mention, catering to Discovery Channel’s producers and cameramen, flying helicopters around to locate medical grows, and wasting the departments budget filing lawsuits and appeals to stop legal Oregon marijuana patients from possessing a Concealed Handgun License. (See the OCC Aug/Sep 2011 issue for the story at www.oregoncannabisconnection.com)

Instead, he proposed layoffs during a televised press conference. He warned county residents that there will be fewer rural patrols and an increased response time on calls in some areas. Messing with peoples lives inside the sheriff’s department and out seems to make Winters feel powerful. He may call it leadership, but those who understand call it hubris.

With five more episodes to go, and another show filling the time slot in April called “Pot Cops”, we can be assured that the law enforcement will get their message across. How can they miss when Discovery Channel sensationalizes everything and makes them out to be heroes that are fighting a battle, and a “winning” battle according to Sheriff Mike Winters.

Weed Country is terrible, and does not favors for the marijuana industry, especially in Oregon. All those wanting to end marijuana prohibition should let them know at Discovery Channel. Visit the “Weed Country” Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/weedcountrydc) and Discovery Channels website (http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/weed-country) to see the show and to let them know how you feel.

The Oregon Cannabis Connection is a bi-monthly publication focused on the Oregon cannabis community. For subscription or location information, visit their website.

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About Jay Smoker

I have been smoking marijuana for almost twenty years and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. My life was turned upside down in 2009 after getting arrested and tossed in jail for being in the wrong state with legal medical marijuana. I got fed up, and I now devote all my time to ending this insanity.I am responsible for the technical side of this project, but try to chip in when I can, either with syndicated articles or original content.Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.Feel free to email. any questions or concerns. Peace!
  • lvstreeter

    The reason I was skeptical to the show’s reality is because the bank closed Mike Boutin’s account. What self respecting weed grower trust’s the banking system? Everyone knows they’re connected with the government, even if he is growing legally why take the chance? Everyone knows the old saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Always have some stashed somewhere else and only a little in the bank just for paying utilities and such.

    • Garrett Martin

      THAT’S the reason you were skeptical? How about that, and oh, I don’t know, EVERYTHING else about the show!!! Hahaha. I mean I’m only on the 3rd episode right now and the event you speak of hasn’t even happened and the ZERO question in my mind that the show is fake/scripted. i just can’t help but picture you watching the show all the way up to that point, all super into it, thinking it’s real. Then the bank thing happens and you go “Heeeyyyy, wait a gosh darn minute!!” haha. OK OK, we all get it though, your very knowledgeable about how to operate a grow business, we’re all very impressed. ;-)

    • Garrett Martin

      Also, during the episode it was never once said that Mike had all his money in the bank account. I know growers that have bank accounts, just because someone has a bank account doesn’t mean they HAVE to keep ALL their money in it. Mike was trying to get a plane ticket when he noticed his account was gone, if he didn’t have a ba how would he get the tickets? Actual credit card? !ell that’s really no different from a b.a.

  • El Dangeroso

    Interesting points. Reality T.V. is far from reality. What intrigued me about the series is that it did give a handful of growers a voice. I live in the area where the growers were filmed. The growers in the series live in Northern California, in Trinity County. It’s comforting that even though the show was over edited, it included real scenes from real medical marijuana farmers.

    Marijuana is big in Trinity County. The county only has about 15,000 residents. It used to be an area that thrived because of logging. The logging industry went under, and there was a short period where most of the people in the county lived in poverty. Now, because of the marijuana industry, the county is thriving again. The scene’s with B.E. smith and his farm are very accurate and true to the nature of farms in this area. The biggest myth about marijuana is that it is an industry controlled by drug cartels and criminals. Most marijuana growers in this area have small plots. If they sell their pot, they use the money to supplement their income, to raise them, if not on paper, above poverty line levels.

    These people chose to live in an economically challenged area because the land is beautiful and uncrowded. Marijuana cultivation allows the waitresses, and janitors, and secretaries who populate this area to live here comfortably, to keep their lights on, to keep their families fed.

    Though the show is over the top, it did show, to some degree, the dynamic that I just described.

  • Ribbit

    Seemed scripted to me, also.
    Plus, just boring, they spend 50% of the show on the set up and 25% re-covering the exact same shots and voice overs they just showed before the commercial break. The remaining 25% is fairly predictable (after so much build up) and not really all that interesting.

  • Ribbit

    Who was that asshat cop that said marijuana is ‘worse’ than alcohol? Ha ha ha ha haaa…

  • dadudedd

    Sheriff Mike Weaver should stick to what he knows best….smoking pole.

  • Garrett Martin

    How is the show Cops a typical NON-reality reality show? Cause I would say it’s probably the realist reality show on tv lol.

  • Lord McIlwain

    I get what you are saying! Its OBVIOUSLY staged and allot of it for entertainment purposes! HOWEVER it IS DOING a MASSIVE amount for showing the world that their is a HUGE need to decriminalize/legalize this AMAZING plant!!! If it can educate the world…I don’t care if its staged!! :) James (New Zealand)

  • Natalie Weeds

    I know for sure that the show is 100% scripted. My co worker is an actor and just finished a lead role in an independent file. His “wife” is the good looking girl in Weed Country. Lol. She’s a paid actress/model. Hey, TV is TV and reality TV is just for entertainment purposes only.