Marijuana debate revived with bill, TV show

Even as Assemblyman Tom Ammiano today reintroduced his bill to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for all uses, marijuana advocates are taking to television – but not with ads.

Cannabis PlanetCannabis Planet,” a 30-minute weekly television program is about to start a 26-week run on the Bay Area’s KOFY-TV (Channel 20/13) at midnight this Friday.

The show – focusing on the merits of the marijuana plant in medicine, industry and agriculture “and the benefits this plant brings to Planet Earth, mankind and the United States” – is already seen in the Los Angeles and San Diego markets, and will roll out in Sacramento in March and in Colorado later this spring.

Weekly topics will include cannabis news and information, profiles of medical marijuana collectives, cannabis cooking, patient testimonials, celebrity interviews, music, entertainment and more. It’s co-hosted by Ngaio Bealum, publisher of West Coast Cannabis Magazine, and Los Angeles medical marijuana activist Sarah Diesel; Oakland’s own Ed Rosenthal, the “guru of ganja” who’s world-renowned for his horticultural expertise in marijuana, will serve as a resident expert offering cultivation tips, while Chef Michael Delao will cook up some cannabis cuisine.

“We are very excited to be bringing this show into the Bay Area, where Prop. 215 was born” Brad Lane, the show’s creator and executive producer, said in a news release. “Our goal at Cannabis Planet is to inform and educate the masses about the merits of the Cannabis Sativa plant, and to fight for safe and legal access for medical cannabis patients.”

That’s a hell of a publicity blitz even as California ramps up the debate over Ammiano’s bill and a like-minded November ballot measure put forth by Oakland marijuana activists and businessmen Richard Lee and Jeffrey Jones. But when I talked to Lane this afternoon, he insisted it’s not a political show.

“Our political agenda is to legalize cannabis” for food, fuel, fiber and medicine “but we’re not a political-based show, if that makes sense – were just trying to educate and inform the masses about the merits of cannabis sativa,” he said, noting the show won’t depict or promote recreational use of marijuana. “Hemp, hemp hooray – we just want to get the message out there.”

The show originally ran in Los Angeles for 13 weeks, then was re-run. Lane said the producers have “re-mastered” the LA episodes with minor touches to make them geographically appropriate for other areas – San Diego and Bay Area backdrops, for example – and are now producing a second run of 13 new shows which will contain more local content.

Lane said the Berkeley Patients Group is the flagship Bay Area sponsor, with other support for the show coming from San Francisco’s Ketama Collective, Richmond’s Seven Stars Holistic Healing, and Berkeley-based KZee Novelty Products, maker of the “Lollipipe” edible candy smoking pipe. “We plan on bringing in more sponsors, we’ve just started dipping our toe in the water in the Bay Area,” he said.

Statewide sponsors include the MediCann medical-marijuana-evaluation clinics, as well as Canadian hydroponics companies Advanced Nutrients and BC Northern Lights.

Ammiano’s Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act (AB 2254) would create a regulatory structure similar to that used for beer, wine and liquor, permitting taxed sales to adults while barring sales to or possession by those under 21. Its former incarnation, AB 390, was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee – which Ammiano chairs – last month, but died when the clock ran out on the last Legislative session. Re-introduced, it’ll probably make a quick pass back through Public Safety on its way to the Assembly Health Committee.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.