Chuck Barney: ‘Weed Wars’ Oakland cast wants America to love them

The Bay Area businessmen featured in the new reality series, “Weed Wars,” want you to know that they’re not bad guys. Nor are they “kooks.” “We’re like most American families,” says Steve DeAngelo. “We say grace before dinner, we celebrate birthdays, and we mourn losses.”

Ah, but there is one glaring difference: They sell marijuana. DeAngelo is the founder and executive director of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, the largest medical cannabis dispensary in the country. (A second location opened in San Jose last year). He and his brother, Andrew, along with David Weddingdress, visited television’s summer press tour to chat up “Weed Wars,” which is set for a November debut on the Discovery Channel.

The four-episode series promises to “fearlessly pull back the curtain on a once illegal and controversial world” while going behind the scenes at Harborside and introducing viewers to the people who work there. The facility reportedly serves more than 80,000 patients and dispenses only the “highest-grade” cannabis. “It’s not some hole-in-the-wall pot shop that’s an embarrassment to its neighborhood,” explained Steve DeAngelo.

The men of Harborside made quite an impression at the press tour. Steve wore his hair in lengthy braids, set off by stylish earrings, and the bearded Weddingdress (he has changed his name) showed up in a purple tie-dye frock. “(It’s) my personal comfort zone,” he explained.
“It’s also a political statement for me on challenging what it is to be a man in this society.” Based on appearances alone, they should make for some good TV — executive producer Chuck Braverman calls them “terrific characters” — but they want to do more than just entertain audiences. They want to change minds.

“I’ve seen what this medicine does for suffering patients,” Steve said. “I’m confident that, if the American people get to know my staff and my patients, they’re going to support our cause.” But is he worried that the message might get lost among some viewers beyond the Bay Area who could take one look at the screen and say, “Good lord, there go those kooks from California again”? “No way,” says Steve. “I’m convinced that more people will fall in love with us than hate us.”

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