by David Downs
The Discovery Channel airs its final episode of the four-part documentary series Weed Wars — which follows the life and times of Harborside Health Center in Oakland — Thursday at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. Titled “Harborside's Alternative 4/20 Celebration,” the episode covers "Harborside Health Center's busiest sales day of the year," as Discovery Channel puts it.
"As much as Steve DeAngelo loves 4/20 as a day of celebration and booming business, he fears that widespread images of tie-dyed hippies smoking six-foot joints ultimately damages the credibility of their 'medical movement' with the public at large," the producers write.
So on 4/23, Harborside throws "Deep Green," a festival "aimed at characterizing marijuana not as an intoxicant, but as an aid to wellness." Like the episodes before it, Weed Wars episode four features some compelling medical marijuana patient stories, like a Harborside patient treating medical complications from severe pancreatitis. (Which is when your body starts digesting itself, FYI. Not fun.)
All in all, the "Weed Wars" series could've been an unmitigated nightmare for Oakland and medical cannabis, but producer Chuck Braverman and crew clearly connected with the patient need on display daily at Harborside. Episode two's story of a kid with epilepsy brought some viewers to tears. And in a year when Oakland's national image was otherwise that of cops tear-gassing Occupy protesters, Weed Wars' cinematography — with its time-lapse shots of a gorgeous, teeming metropolis by the Bay — offered millions of middle Americans a downright romantic view of the Town.