Winner 2009

Up in Smoke


California’s contradictory attitudes about marijuana are illustrated to sometimes comic, other times sobering effect in a series of reports presented under the umbrella title Up in Smoke on KCET’s SoCal Connected. In Up in Smoke (Part 1), KCET investigators looked into the proliferation of legal, but minimally regulated, medicinal marijuana dispensaries. They discovered that storefront “clinics” with cute names such as Grasshopper Collective and Buds on Melrose outnumbered Starbucks franchises in Los Angeles, and they traced the explosion to an inadvertent loophole in a city council ordinance intended to limit expansion. Another report, “Cannabis Cowboys,” let viewers shadow an elite police squad of pot-farm eradicators as they swoop down, literally, on gardens carefully disguised in rugged underbrush to chop, bale, haul away and destroy the state’s number one cash crop. The reports are not only thorough and probing, they are artfully shot and edited, and they enhance each other, implicitly raising questions about how Californians really feel about this popular, quasi-legal, untaxed drug. Meanwhile, the loophole expose and follow-up led the city council to pass a permanent law limiting the number of legal dispensaries. For entertaining, informative reporting, Up in Smoke receives a Peabody Award.


Executive Producer: Bret Marcus. Senior Producer: Justine Schmidt. Producers: Karen Foshay, Rick Wilkinson. Associate Producer: Alexandria Gales. Correspondents: Judy Miller, John Larson. Editors: Alberto Arce, Michael Bloecher.