The Business of Drugs Season 1, Episode 5 recap: Cannabis

Jorge Padilla is one of several members of the same family who work in the cannabis industry in Coachella, August 4, 2020.Cannabis Family Workers 2
Jorge Padilla is one of several members of the same family who work in the cannabis industry in Coachella, August 4, 2020.Cannabis Family Workers 2 /

After profiling “harder” drugs like meth, cocaine, heroin, and synthetics, The Business of Drugs looks at the business of legal weed (which I will mostly refer to as “pot” from this point forward).  Host (and former CIA agent) Amaryllis Fox tends to focus mostly on California, the largest pot producer, which first legalized it for medical use in 1996.

That’s not to say California is alone.  In 2012, “the pot” was legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, and more states seem open to legalization.  Wanda James, the CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary, notes that the state is very hands-on, with advanced tracking methods including RFID chips and barcodes.  James emphasizes that she needs to monitor everything “from seed to sale.”

The Business of Drugs in California

A common issue with state-regulated pot is that, well, it’s regulated.  One must be up-to-date on licensing, compliance methods, testing, and extraction fees, and the whole operation is highly taxed.  To make it even more challenging, there are no credit cards and, apparently, no loans available (at least legally).  It’s explained that all the fees and processes help assure “black market” pot farming is still the leader.

Kerry Ireland, of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, tells The Business of Drugs that he wants to remove the black market element.  Of course, that easily leads one to ask if that could ever occur.  Though “The Business of Drugs” says black-market pot cultivation is potentially dangerous, it seems like the danger still actually comes from the profit motive rather than the drug itself.


The Business of Drugs interviews numerous industry experts regarding high-tech lighting and irrigation, and also explores the “medical route.”  The series also explains the difference between THC and the less-intoxicating CBD.  We also learn about Adelanto, California, a city that works harder to reduce barriers to entering the legal pot industry.

Though it certainly still costs money to get legally involved, it seems Adelanto might help reduce pitfalls of the black market, simply by moving closer to an open market.  For example, they even allow for storefront cannabis dispensaries, rather than treat the industry like some dirty secret.  We briefly hear from City Manager Jessie Flores and Development Director Charles Rangel, who explain problems they faced in getting these plans started (including, of course, those who opposed the idea).

In Conclusion:  What can be learned from the episode

The drug war has been going on for a long time.  Obviously, people still use drugs, including pot, whether it’s in cigarette forms, or oils and extracts.  This series offers a very slight glimpse into this world, though it does not fully explain the dimensions of the problems involved.

That being said, there are brief moments that delve into how the drug war is racist.  For example, they mention the case of Corvain Cooper, who is actually serving a life sentence over an interstate weed deal!  Also, given all the non-violent people who smoke pot, wouldn’t it at least make sense to take it off of Schedule I (by being Schedule I, the DEA laughably regards marijuana as deadly as heroin, and deadlier than cocaine and methamphetamine!).

Next. 8 buzzy shows headed to Netflix February 2021. dark

What are your thoughts on The Business of Drugs?  Let us know in the comments!