One of the loudest complaints regularly leveled against the legalized cannabis industry is that there are, in fact, too many millionaires in the mix already.
As bottlenecks keep equity applicants waiting in numerous jurisdictions across the United States, those with the capital to jump into the market feet first have enjoyed some serious zeroes in their banks accounts over the past two years. One need look no further than the sordid legacy of former MedMen CEO Adam Bierman for a compelling argument against bringing millionaires into the fold.
Unfortunately, it’s tough to pitch a series called “Next Community-Focused Marijuana Entrepreneur Who Earns Enough to Make a Living But Doesn’t Extort the System for Profit” to most networks. As a result, viewers will instead be invited to watch the debut of “Next Marijuana Millionaire” — a new series set to premiere on streaming services like Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Pluto TV on August 15.
Hosting the program is Michael “Big Mike” Straumietis, perhaps best known as the founder of Advanced Nutrients, which bills itself as the “top-selling cannabis fertilizer brand in the world.”
Straumietis makes for a logical choice to serve as the face of the series given his long and successful tenure as an executive within the industry. In addition to starting Advanced Nutrients in 1999 (a company which currently boasts over $110 million in annual revenue), MG Retailer reports that Big Mike has also consulted on pot-themed Hollywood projects like “Weeds” and “Pineapple Express.”
Now, he’ll reportedly oversee a contest featuring 16 “budding entrepreneurs” who will vie for a grand prize of $1 million as well as the opportunity to form a partnership with Straumietis himself.
Across the season — all of which will be available to stream at once — contestants will reportedly be tested on their cannabis knowledge and skills. There will also be more generalized challenges of each player’s physical and mental toughness, making the series somewhat of a hodgepodge of existing reality television properties.
In a recent teaser trailer for the show, dramatic orchestral music accompanies shots of Straumietis departing a private airplane and grilling a contestant on “terpene pulls” in his impeccably decorated office. Also included in a montage of various moments from “Next Marijuana Millionaire” are shots of what appear to be one player getting a cannabis-themed tattoo while another prepares to skydive.
With no full episodes to absorb yet, there are already some question marks worth probing when it comes to the cost-reward ratio of having a show like “Next Marijuana Millionaire.”
For one, it’s lazy to value alliteration over a term like “cannabis” in the show title, which is quickly becoming the default phrase in all respectable discourse (plus, it doesn’t have racist origins). Another burning question concerns how the contestants for this show were selected. Were they chosen based on need and merit? If not, why are these folks getting the opportunity before those who faced the harshest penalties as a result of America’s ongoing drug war?
These questions get to what’s really poised to be the biggest issue with the concept: positing cannabis entrepreneurship as a game. Even if this show succeeds in casting cannabis in a new light, it’s still skirting around the very reason why the series itself is necessary.
The legality of cannabis and the rights of Black and brown individuals to benefit from it is simply not palatable as amusement. There’s nothing fun about what’s happening to Michael Thompson. Selling weed wasn’t a game to Fidel Torres.
As series like Straumietis’ reality show or Discovery’s recently announced series chronicling actor-turned-cannabis grower Jim Belushi suggest, the interest in weed-related programming is clearly there. Now the next challenge will be to make sure said interest is channeled into shows that elevate the conversation rather than dilute it.
Will “Next Marijuana Millionaire” be one of them? Let’s ask the audience.