Marijuana Gold Rush: Documentary Examines Weed Business


Rialto Cinemas

​​By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent
The Weed Wars are on, and at stake are television ratings. In the next couple of weeks we’ll start to see the bounty of this year’s harvest of cannabis-centric TV hitting the airwaves. 
The ever-present Steve DeAngelo has his reality series starting on the Discovery Channel a la Kiss’s Gene Simmons: depicting a world class guy with the weight of the world on his shoulders yet he has time to take his kid to Little League. Just a regular guy and family man who happens to like to bang the gong at the end of the day. America won’t believe their eyes.
This Friday the National Geographic Channel is joining the Cannafest with the premiere of Marijuana Gold Rush. Depicting the many highs and a few lows of this past year’s emerging dream of bringing cannabis into the mainstream, going from the boardrooms of New York to our own Mendocino County’s Emerald Cup, with the participants not knowing what really is to come.

Marijuana Gold Rush is different from the other documentaries and reality shows that are about to be released because of the way, director/producer/writer, Marc Shaffer, has shown the emerging medical marijuana not in its infancy, but trying to make that paradigm shift to the next level.
What Shaffer has done in a Rashomon-style is to portray the many players on both coasts and in between, revealing their ideas and perceptions on where to go with a budding industry while the cameras were rolling unobtrusively in the background.

Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
Harborside Health Center’s Steve DeAngelo: “People who are involved in the industry because they want to make a lot of money are premature”

​We’re privy to Steve DeAngelo going back and forth with marketers, advising the suits:
“People who are involved in the industry because they want to make a lot of money are premature. Let’s remember: it’s a psychoactive substance. I don’t think that we’re going to win the trust of our fellow citizens by coming in and saying, ‘We just want to treat cannabis like any other commodity. We want to have ads for the Super Bowl. We want to it to be in 7-Eleven’s. We want to be just like any other product.’ I don’t think Americans are going to go for that.”
Then you have the Young Guns like partners Derek Peterson and Dhar Mann of the so-called “Wal-Mart of Weed” with the company, WeGrow, navigating their way as outsiders with money trying to get in.
For the new ganjateers like Derek Peterson, the documentary shows the startling insensitivity to the hippie doctrine of the mellow way of doing business by explaining, “Let’s face it. Cannabis is becoming more legitimate, right? So traditional business practices are now entering the arena. And that is cutthroat, backstabbing, stepping on, and trying to grab market share. And that’s just how it is.” 
What’s so interesting about this documentary is sadly we now know the outcomes to many of the entrepreneurs scenarios, namely the heavy-footed boot of the Federal Government that is about to come down. We root for the underdogs yet we know what’s waiting for them around the corner when Black Autumn hits. 

Deep Green
Tim Blake, Mendocino Farmers Collective: “Every business in Mendocino would be gone without cannabis”

Marijuana Gold Rush shows struggle of embracing capitalism while walking the balancing act of keeping your morals intact, or at least finding out how much your morals are worth.
Mendocino Icon Tim Blake having lived in the area for decades understands what is facing his Northern California forest community. 
“Every business in Mendocino would be gone without cannabis. There aren’t any more trees to cut down up here. We’ve fished out every fish in these oceans. There’s nothing left, okay? So what we’ve got here as a growth industry is cannabis.”
And then there’s Big Pharma. Among the notables and leaders of the emerging cannabis industry, Shaffer has also included the CEO of Great Britain’s G.W. Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Geoffrey Guy.
That’s a very interesting part of the film and I cannot state this strongly enough: Keep your eye on Dr. Guy; he’s the man with the plan. Watch. 
The documentary is part cautionary tale and up-close look at behind the scenes of an industry that meets resistance on Main Street while Wall Street whistles seductively for attention and their possible dollars. 
This documentary film a year ago, finished in spring, captures a moment in time when everything seemed possible. This was before October 4, when the California Attorney General decided that she had had enough. When the Top Cop of Cali — who was elected with the help of cannabis dollars — declared war on cannabis and every patient in the Golden State. 
Through these dreamers and schemers and with the benefit of hindsight, we get glimpse into the backrooms of an industry that has yet had a chance to flower.      
Marijuana Gold Rush can be seen Friday, December 2 at 9 p.m. PST time on the National Geographic Channel; check your TV Guide for local listings. 

Photo: Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.