James Alexandrou on filming Cannabis: What's The Harm?
I spoke to James about making the series and I started by asking him whether the media attention on his own life prompted him to take part in the programme....
JAMES: Originally when I was approached to do the documentary I was very wary because of being associated with cannabis before and how scared I was when that picture first slipped out into the papers somehow. But as I remembered back to when it happened the reaction from people about that was actually pretty much indifferent. People were like 'I saw you in the papers' but it wasn't 'you're a bad person' or 'you're brilliant'. And I think that's the public attitude towards cannabis - the majority of people are indifferent. There is a very vocal minority that are against it and for it but the majority of people are quite indifferent towards it.
Apart from the fact that I was on the telly for a little while when I was younger, I feel that I am quite a normal, average 25 year old guy who grew up on the outskirts of London. I have smoked in the past and it's around and I find myself quite average in that way. So I felt like I could do this project and ask the right questions.
In the programme lots of people were willing to open up about their relationship with cannabis and talk about it on the telly. Were you surprised by the amount of people willing to be filmed and to be completely open about it?
You went to film in California where cannabis is legalised but regulated, how did you find that experience?
JAMES: It was a place I've been to before but I've never seen it in this light before. Cannabis is legalised there for medicinal use which on paper sounds pretty bland. But you go there and it's quite an exciting, passionate community of people that are behind this and I think that they've gone a step in the right direction with how they deal with cannabis. You've got to go to a doctor, get diagnosed, you've got to then go back and go to a dispensary and go through a whole service and process there before you finally get the end product, which is weed. It's not about wanting some weed and you go out and get it from some kid on a street corner. There's a whole education around it and there's a whole culture there. Here it's very underground and I think in that respect harmful.
The fact it's underground here in the UK may lead to some of the most harmful sides to cannabis. It leaves it open to exploitation of certain people, like the guy I met in the second programme who was smuggled into this country just to be locked in a house to grow cannabis. He had no idea what he was being brought here for and even now he is too scared to reveal his identity.
Watch this web exclusive clip of James visiting the world's largest cannabis dispensary:
You can watch more clips from the programme on the Cannabis: What's The Harm? website.
What are you hoping that people will take away most from watching the series?
JAMES: I think again I can speak from what I got from it and hope that people get the same as that, this idea about education on the subject really. It's not just this little green leaf you buy off the street; this is so much more complex than that. There's all different types of weed out there that do all sorts of different things to your body which I wasn't aware of and I think if you are going to take a drug you should make an effort to find out as much about that drug as possible.
James Alexandrou presents the first part of Cannabis: What's The Harm? tonight at 9pm on BBC Three and part two will be on next Thursday 3rd February at 9pm.
- More information about the Cannabis: What's The Harm? Series
- Watch more clips from Cannabis: What's The Harm?
- Look at James' Cannabis Photo Diary
- 60seconds Sam: Cannabis Factsheet
- More about the Dangerous Pleasures Season
- BBC Health: Guide To Cannabis
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