Mike Boutin has been a medical marijuana patient for 35 years. Recently, he was prominently featured in the short-lived Discovery series Weed Country. In partnership with Julie Rose, Michael hosts Cannabis Nation Radio every Friday at 5 p.m. EST.
How were you chosen to be featured in Weed Country?
The Los Angeles Times was looking for a story and inquired at the Trinity County Sheriffs office if there was a safe/good neighbor operation they could point them to and they said “Mike & Tawni Boutin/Grace Farms.”
When the story came out, we were featured prominently on the front page of the Sunday edition. I was called by Steve Mellon, one of the executive producers. About a year later, Steve and I trying to move the project forward.
What was the experience like?
Mostly it was a fascinating learning experience. I totally look at TV differently knowing what it takes to put just a few minutes of footage on the air. There were times it was irritating and annoying. For example, if we were just shooting what they call “B roll,” we would do the same task or activity more than one time so they could take different angles. This made everything take three times as long as it would have normally and it was easy to get behind in the work. The upside was that the entire crew, which dubbed itself “Team Felony,” hinting at the inherent risks associated with farming, were really talented, intelligent, and engaging people. Good conversation is a blessing out here in the hills and we had quite a few. They kept me company and I gave them perspective. We even won a few people over, which is the goal of everything we do anyway.
Winning people over to the idea of repealing criminal sanctions associated with marijuana activity of any kind is my highest purpose in doing this show and broadcasting Cannabis Nation Radio.
Many people don't like to see cops busting growers. Some feel the show might have sensationalized growing, making it look "criminal." How do you feel?
Yeah, I hate seeing that too. It’s like watching fish and wildlife violators poaching fawns. In the beginning, when Discovery wanted two law enforcement agencies involved in to give the project a “360-degree” look at it, I was mildly irritated. I didn’t really trust anyone to get the right perspective, but watching the show unfold on TV was really a blast because I had never seen any of footage up to that point.
On the other hand, I got that puke-in-your-mouth feeling when cops would spew the party line. But sometimes it was like a good Cheech & Chong routine. They actually never really busted anyone in a grow, but they had plenty of chances to show America how moronic what they do is. When Don Adams of the Jackson County Oregon Sheriffs Department said that they had found rattlesnakes tied to trees with the rattle removed, I almost died! I was sitting on my couch screaming at the TV: “What?! Shouldn’t I get fries and a drink with a whopper like that?!” Someone told me that may have come from a Van Damme movie.
I think we tried to show people what it takes to get through a growing season and mostly, there is nothing sensational about it. It’s hard work and risk from all sides. I got a lot of correspondence from people thanking us for what we did, as they live in fear of losing everything they own to draconian marijuana laws. When all a person is trying to do is heal a medical condition, it makes what the cops do look pretty silly.
Do you feel the show was valid and accurate?
I know that in some ways it wasn’t – like when they tried to make it look like the cops were after me, but in reality they were not. Growing is a significant risk for sure and it could happen, but the way they stitched it together was gratuitous.
As far as our part was concerned, it was very valid and very accurate. We really did go through those issues. We didn’t feel like we asked for any of it but we did have to go through it. The thing that was inaccurate was that of the four months we were filming, we were smiling, happy, having fun, and living life 90 percent of the time. But they managed to air about 95 percent of it, which was only 20 percent of what actually happened. The other inaccuracy was my seeming lack of advocacy. None of the footage of me interviewing people like Alex White Plume on Cannabis Nation Radio ever made it to the screen.
Tell us what life in the Emerald Triangle is like.
It’s what you make it. It can be hard or it can be easy. Too many people know who you are and what you are doing.It can be hard. You have to keep to yourself and go with the flow. There’s always the possibility of trouble, but mostly from the cops in the air or in convoys. There is constant surveillance; I have seen military drones, in-flight fueling of military surveillance aircraft, and more. There is a concerted effort to “jacket” anyone involved in the trade.
But there is also the sheer, raw beauty of the geography and the good people who have called it home for generations who leaven it all out. Life in the Triangle has given me the chance to learn more about weed, myself, and how to moderate an honest conversation about marijuana.
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