You sound like many nepo-babies who’ve tried to get in the game in recent years. And you might be a partial inspiration for Audible’s new pot-focused dark comedy Blood Weed.
In Blood Weed, Chase Stapp finds himself in that same position. That’s before things get thrown upside down thanks to the Russian mob, bad executive decisions, a torture site, and a couple of gallons of human blood.
That plot line might make it sound like Blood Weed is another out-there stoner journey, and it certainly is to some degree. But thanks to the on-the-job experience of co-creator Dan Abramson and a love of all things pot from co-creator Matt Klinman, the story remains grounded, doing something few have done: showcase the modern legal cannabis space, warts and all.
The Funny or Die veterans headed up the show’s 10-episode production, with the cast comprising an ensemble of solid voice actors. Notable voices include Haley Joel Osment (as Chase), Maria Bakalova, Hugo Armstrong, Clayton English, Allan McLeod, Yevgeniy Kartashov and many other talented comedians and actors.
I recently checked out Blood Weed during my drive across New Jersey as I toured some dispensaries. It made for an enjoyable driving companion.
Entertaining, Relatable Story
Overall, Blood Weed was an enjoyable listen. The work of Abramson and Klinman, along with the cast, was essential to immersing listeners in the story. Credit is also given to the production. Musician Michael Cheever delivers on creating a world of scenes, often using dark, bass-heavy music. With Audible’s backing, there’s no surprise that the production quality is top-notch.
But it is the story that stood out for me. Coming out the gate with the first episode titled Hall of Flowers, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be a hokey stoner slog, or would Blood Weed transcend the low-hanging comedy fruit?
The show delivered on the first episode, particularly when Chase and his weed brand, Elevator, are hounded by the media over their lack of bud at their debut show. Despite rolling up flowerless, Chase and the Elevator team focus more on creating an exciting booth experience and generating buzz. That leaves room for a whole new mess of problems to enter.
In a recent episode of my webcast, Canna Say Something, Abramson explained how he saw this type of thinking first-hand while working as a cannabis industry copywriter. At his company, which he preferred not to name, he recalled witnessing the booth emphasis over flower quality.
“These companies are really putting a lot of pressure on themselves for the booth,” he recalled thinking.
Now I have never been to Hall of Flowers. So, I won’t judge anyone at that event—I’ve heard great things from enthusiasts and suits alike. But I’ve attended enough weed trade shows over the past few years to see how many brands have prioritized the booth over the product. And sometimes, the sales figures support the approach. Hooray, capitalism.
Later episodes in the series helped drive the authenticity of the story home that much more. Examples include Elevator’s takeover, led by Andrey and the Russian mob. With new leadership knowing less about weed than Chase, costly decisions, like firing your cultivation staff, come into play. These decisions ultimately lead to the Blood Weed coming into the story—along with Chase being imprisoned, tortured, and tasked with implementing office efficiency tools into the mob’s workflow.
Even more realistic examples throughout the show include education on THC potency, trouble with new terminology, bribing lab testing facilities, and legal operators pushing unsellable products onto the unlicensed market. For a comedy, this was a pretty relatable listen.
The characters helped cement that Blood Weed wasn’t just a cookie-cutter pot production. Weed stories are often bogged down in stereotypes, mostly the Cheech and Chong, Jeff Spicoli-type stoner. While Klinman and Abramson feel those characteristics have places in comedy, their character choices in Blood Weed helped present a more realistic representation of today’s weed world, with various characters making up the company and its supporting cast.
Despite there being ample stories to tell in the world of weed, they say the market for stoner comedies isn’t going away.
“People may complain like, ‘I don’t want stoner stuff’, but everybody fucking loved Pineapple Express,” said Klinman.
Klinman dropped another cannabis-comedy-education series on HBO Max this past 4/20, High Science, co-starring Zack Poitras and Paul Bettany. The series portrays two stoner lab assistants who get high on science.
Abramson and Klinman created the series a few years ago when the cannabis industry was booming. At that time, investors flooded the space with funding, leading to a wave of entrepreneurs and investors getting involved. Many either had get-rich-quick goals in mind or simply had no idea how complex this industry would be. Many of those folks are now out of the game after taking a financial beating along the way.
Blood Weed did a great job capturing that time period. And kudos to the staff, who produced Blood Weed during the pandemic.
“I recorded it from my little downstairs makeshift sound studio,” said McLeod. He plays several supporting roles in the show, including a stoned enthusiast at Hall of Flowers and a staff member on a Louisiana grow op. McLeod said he’s now enjoying listening to the episodes and occasionally spotting his work.
Then there’s the leads who truly personify the cannabis space. Chase is the kind of person I’ve interviewed countless times over the years. An all-flash and little substance type, he had no idea what he was getting into when he started Elevator and certainly didn’t when he got in over his head with the underground. But when it comes to office efficiency tools, he excels in a way that might horrify anyone who’s endured startup office culture.
Coal Fusion, a past prime hip-hop star who loves weed, is Elevator’s co-founder. He also serves as the celebrity brand ambassador archetype that ran wild during this era. Even now, with the money flowing into cannabis less, celeb brands and sponsors still pop up occasionally—even as their success is debated.
Or, as Klinman described the character: “What if Ja Rule teamed up with a low-rung tech billionaire or whatever?”
Elevator’s staff is a who’s who of the folks you might meet at a corpo cannabis company office. Many are examples of spread too thin, likely type-A transplants from other industries. Mixed in with a poached Emerald Triangle OG here or there, and Elevator mimics tons of companies trying to make it in weed.
Combining industry experience and relatable characters helps Blood Weed feel more connected to the new legal space than any other pot entry I’ve seen. The relatability and accuracy are delivered in a light, humorous way despite being wrapped up in a world of market deception, mob ties and murder. It’s not an entirely true-to-life depiction of pot, but that wasn’t expected from a comedy about blood-soaked weed.
Blood Weed Delivers
Overall, Blood Weed was a fun listen for my drive—and while cooking a few days later. It also gave me time to pause and wonder about the dealings of some of the popular brands that might be in the dispensaries I just visited.
I tried to identify any negatives of the show and came away with just a few hair-splitting notes. The only folks I could see having an issue with Blood Weed might be those seeking accurate, grounded and/or positive depictions of the cannabis world. And while that is undoubtedly a valid desire, that’s like looking for authentic medieval dialogue in Your Highness. If you’re in this camp, you may be better off checking out some cannabis documentaries instead of a comedy series.
While I don’t think it did, some could feel Blood Weed goes too inside-baseball with the industry talk. But, I’d argue it’s essential for framing such a complex world of weed.
In all, I enjoyed Blood Weed, but the real test is consumer response. Abramson and Klinman told me they hope to hear more feedback after not getting much in the first month of the show’s release.
“Hopefully people will kind of take it with a grain of salt, like what we’re doing,” said Klinman. He added that the duo hopes to make more pot projects.
“We would love to make more stuff in that world, treating it seriously…portraying the actual industry as it is, because there’s so many stories and so many crazy things in it,” Klinman said.
You can check out Blood Weed on Audible. I used my free credit to snag this at no cost. If you don’t have a credit, check out a few minutes of the show over at Soundcloud.