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Patrick Gower gets the dope on marijuana in a new documentary

In two-part documentary On Weed, the former political reporter looks at what's behind the green rush, both recreational and medicinal.

If you want to see how much our attitudes to marijuana have changed, there’s a journalist getting high on camera this week and no one lost their job.

In Patrick Gower: On Weed (Three, Wednesday, 8.30pm), the former political reporter vapes weed with a doctor in Colorado, drinks cannabis tea with a group of women in LA and goes on a “bud crawl” in Vancouver.

All legal, of course. When it comes to cannabis, the times are definitely a-changin’. Canada, Uruguay and 11 US states have legalised the consumption and sale of cannabis, and many more countries have decriminalised.

And the medicinal use of cannabis is now legal in more than 35 countries, including New Zealand. An amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act was passed by Parliament in December and submissions on how the medicinal cannabis system should work have just closed.

Then there’s next year’s referendum, which will be held at the general election. Voters will be asked whether we should legalise personal use of cannabis, a move that could open up a large recreational, regulated market.

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In this two-part documentary, Gower looks into the two sides of cannabis: medicinal and recreational. In New Zealand, he meets growers and “green fairies” who are supplying up to 1000 people each. He discovers that, although patients can be prescribed cannabis products, they are often too expensive.

“We already have a medical cannabis market here,” says Gower. “From what I’ve seen, once you go medical, you’ve got to go big, or else you’re going to have a black market in the medical space before you even get to recreational.”

In the US, the recreational green rush is on. “Anything that you can think of making into cannabis, they’ve done it. That’s modern-day branding, that’s modern-day merchandising, that’s America.”

But it’s possibly not New Zealand. The draft scheme put to the Cabinet by the Ministry of Justice would ban the advertising and marketing of cannabis products, although Gower doesn’t cover that in the documentary.

One thing Gower is very clear about is that CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis that is often used for pain relief, should be legal. In the documentary, he includes his personal story about his mother’s death from lung cancer.

“It made it a way better documentary for me, because I started thinking, ‘Man, I wish I had found out more about this while Mum was suffering.’”

This article was first published in the September 7, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.