You know cannabis has hit the mainstream when there are shows, such as HBO's High Maintenance and Netflix's Disjointed, that revolve around the plant. Now cannabis entertainment has gone a step further with an entire channel dedicated to it. Meet 420TV, a channel headquartered in Beverly Hills that targets both the "converted and the curious" and celebrates cannabis culture.
Launching on Thursday, Feb. 22, 420TV features original news, entertainment and lifestyle programming developed by L.A.-based executives from the television, music and, of course, cannabis industries. It's also an OTT (that stands for "over-the-top") channel, meaning it's delivered via the internet rather than through a cable or satellite provider. In the case of 420TV, you can stream it for free, since the channel is completely ad-supported.
"The way this channel started was that I was looking at the landscape for cannabis-related content and I felt like there was a void in the way that the story about cannabis was being told by the media," says Alex Nahai, founding partner of 420TV. The high-quality content pertaining to cannabis painted the culture in a somewhat negative light, while the less pejorative pro-cannabis content wasn't as good quality, he says.
The channel speaks to two main audiences: One comprises people who are already involved in cannabis culture who will "immediately get" what the channel puts out, says Nahai, an attorney and former music executive at William Morris Endeavor. The other category includes people who are curious about the culture. "They may not be pot smokers or know a lot about the culture, but they are people who want to learn," he says.
For the latter group, 420TV features educational programming in addition to comedy, documentary and scripted content. "Our shows and movies can play to both audiences, so it's not really about age, race, how much money you make or anything like that," Nahai says. "It's just about whether or not you currently have an interest or could have an interest in cannabis culture."
Among 420TV's debuting programs are Top Shelf With Dr. Dina, a travel show that takes viewers in search of the best cannabis in a variety of 420-friendly cities; Cannabiz, in which TV personality and social entrepreneur Quddus Philippe surveys innovators in the cannabis industry; and Super Slackers, an animated comedy made by The Simpsons animator-director David Silverman, in which lazy friends unwittingly become superheroes.
Other programming includes In Amsterdam, in which model, VJ and TV actress Veronica van Hoogdalem takes viewers to ground zero of the cannabis movement; Trae the Truth, a semi-autobiographical animated comedy about hip-hop artist Trae's struggles and adventures; and Medical Marijuana Miracles, a documentary series exploring real-life stories of people (and pets) who have benefited from the cannabis plant's medicinal properties.
The new channel is a coming out for cannabis culture, as legalization normalizes and spreads awareness of the plant, as well as a triumph for the culture and cause that existed long before cannabis became this mainstream. Featuring longtime ganjapreneurs like Dr. Dina, a pioneer in California's early medical marijuana movement and now cannabis consultant to Netflix show Disjointed, as well as patients who have used the plant far before it was as accepted as it is today, 420TV sheds light on where cannabis culture comes from and where it's headed.
Dr. Dina's show Top Shelf, for instance, tears down stereotypes about cannabis culture by portraying the diversity of the culture in a number of different cities. Dina herself identifies as a "stiletto stoner" — not the typical stoner you'd expect at, say, a High Times Cannabis Cup, but nonetheless someone who not only loves weed but is broadening the image of those who do. She foresees that with the changing laws, cannabis tourism will become a more widespread phenomenon.
"I've had a dispensary for 15 years and in the last five years I've noticed that people want a look into this little world," Dr. Dina says. "Now with legalization in California, and California being the biggest state to go legal, it's very clear that people want this information. They're starting to realize that traditional pharmaceuticals are not necessarily the answer. It's the first time people are saying it's legal, it's a lifestyle change, I choose cannabis over alcohol."
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Tracy Ryan, whose 5-year-old daughter Sophie was diagnosed at 8 months with optic pathway glioma, a tumor that follows the optic tract, tells her story on Medical Marijuana Miracles. "I recount our lives and how our journey began with Sophie's diagnosis, the heartache we went through after giving birth to a healthy little girl, who required chemo at such a young age," Ryan says. "With this plant, miraculous happenings occurred in our daughter." Today, Sophie is in the 81st percentile for height and weight for her age — and both her doctors and parents attribute her progress to cannabis.
The documentary showcases a day in the life of a cancer patient and her family, going about life in Los Angeles, trying to keep their loved one alive. Sophie takes cannabis oil four times a day — a blend made by her parents’ own company, CannaKids. "We look to companies like 420TV to help get our message to a wide audience," Ryan says. "We need a larger global audience to start wrapping our heads around the powers of this plant. The amount of ailments and diseases this plant can help with is staggering. Shows like this help us change the conversation and educate the masses on a much larger scale."
420TV's goal is to reach a million unique viewers on the service within the first year, says Dan Goman, founder and CEO of OwnZones and a partner with the new cannabis channel. Geographically, 420TV targets a U.S. market but is also launching in Europe via a large telecom, he adds.
"This isn't going to be a small app that we put up on whatever platform," Goman says. "We have global ambitions. We see the demand being so high and with so much interest, we're very optimistic about the prospects of the channel. There could be a broadcast version of what we're launching today on a digital platform."