27 Nov 2016

Having a joint with the President of Uruguay

From Sunday Morning, 10:40 am on 27 November 2016

Vice journalist Krishna Andavolu has been travelling the world exploring the culture of marijuana.

Krishna Andavolu

Krishna Andavolu Photo: Supplied

In his new TV documentary series Weediquette, Andavolu investigates the legal, economic and health factors around cannabis. He also smokes a joint with the President of Uruguay.

Well, not quite with the President, Andavolu tells Wallace Chapman.

Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalise recreational marijuana, and Andavolu travelled there to meet '70s-Marxist revolutionary and folk hero, José Mujica, who was president at the time.

“It was a really wide-ranging interview about what freedom is, what the role of the state [is], how we as individuals interface with greater powers than ourselves, it was a really phenomenal conversation.

“But at the end, because pot was legal, I thought it might be a good idea to ask if I could smoke a joint at his house. I was like ‘Do you mind, Pepe, if I smoke a joint?’.

“And he was like ‘Por favor’.”

While making the series Andavolu says he came to the conclusion that there is no reason for weed to be illegal, and further study into its medical benefits needs to be undertaken.

“Because right now there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of really positive outcomes for people with a variety of different illnesses using medical marijuana.”

However, in the US there has been very little research on the drug, as the Food and Drug Administration consider it to have no medicinal value. This makes it harder for scientists to get the necessary permissions to study it, he says.

“The idea of this series is that we are at a real tipping point about our culture’s understanding of what marijuana is – Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Is it something that makes people rich? is it something that makes people poor?"

“It’s a historic time, it is like the end of alcohol prohibition.”

Weediquette will air on Viceland – a new TV channel coming to New Zealand.