Five famous faces embark on a road trip like no other when they board a magical mystery bus in the US, to explore the legalisation of cannabis. Birds of a Feather actress and Loose Women panellist Linda Robson, ex EastEnders actress Pam St Clement, actor Christopher Biggins, retired footballer and TV presenter John Fashanu and darts supremo Bobby George explore the use of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes in US states where it is legal and meet people who have experienced both the benefits and the downsides.
Each have their own reasons for exploring the issue; Pam has polymyalgia rheumatica and has had a knee replacement, Linda is going through the menopause and gets hot flushes and mood swings, Fash is developing arthritis in his knee, Biggins has pain in his hip and back and Bobby broke his back, has had a new hip and knee, has had arthritis in his right hand and has had three toes cut off.
The celebrities begin their three-week voyage of discovery in San Francisco where the city is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. After a consultation over Skype with a doctor during which they list their health concerns, they are each given a medical certificate, which allows them to legally buy cannabis at a special dispensary.
Back on board their psychedelic bus, driver Chris leads the tour and takes the group to Harbourside, the largest medical cannabis dispensary in the world, 15 miles east of San Francisco. Taking in all of the products for sale, from oils, tinctures and balms to crisps, nuts, cookies and popcorn, Pam can’t believe her eyes and compares it to a British supermarket. All of the celebs, bar Fash, splash some cash, and before they’ve even left the store, Biggins has managed to scoff one of his medicated chocolate beans. It’s a big no-no in California, where you can only legally consume cannabis on private property.
Unable to sleep, at 4.30am Linda tucks into the cannabis chocolate brownie she picked up earlier in the dispensary. The next morning Pam and Biggins are feeling unusually spritely and Linda admits she felt extremely relaxed after her brownie and drifted off to sleep easily after eating it.
The following day, the group head out to meet the ‘Sisters of the Valley’, a group of women living a lifestyle based on the spiritual beliefs of a thirteenth century order called ‘The Begins’. Their purpose is to rescue others from poverty and they live on a farm where they grow cannabis and make products from it including oils, salves and soaps. Their products are made out of the non-psychoactive compound of cannabis, Cannabidol, also known as CBD. They won’t make you high, but the same can’t be said about the type of cannabis the Sisters smoke. Pam and Bobby can’t resist a couple of puffs on a joint and take to smoking cannabis like ducks to water. Bobby compares the effects to having drunk four and half pints.
Fash has never taken drugs or had an alcoholic drink in his life and decides to start with a medicated CBD massage from one of the Nuns. He admits that meeting the nuns has been an eye opener.
Finally, the group head down Route 101 to Surfer’s Paradise in Santa Cruz, to meet cannabis master chef, 94-year-old Nonna Marijuana. Nonna has been cooking with cannabis for the past five years after her daughter, Val, discovered it eased the seizures she suffered after a road traffic accident. Val has since set up a charity to help others and the pair have cooked medicated food for patients with a wide variety of illnesses including AIDS, cancer, brain tumours and epilepsy.
The group are given the opportunity to eat the drug, which is metabolised differently to when it is smoked. The food needs to be digested and the effects can take up to two hours to be felt. Nonna has prepared a variety of dishes, some of which include cannabis. Biggins and Bobby in particular develop a taste for Nonna’s Italian cuisine with its special ingredient and Pam comments that they have “pushed the boat out”. Val then brings out Nonna’s pièce de résistance, cannabis ice-cream and the group are tempted. Will even Fash be tempted to break the habit of a lifetime and try a little?
The group then board the bus for a bumpy four-hour journey to their next pit stop. Tonight’s accommodation is the famously kitsch, Madonna Inn. An hour and a half after eating Nonna’s food, Biggins begins to complain of a dry mouth and the others notice the food he has eaten is beginning to take effect, as he stops giggling and goes very quiet. By the time the group arrive, both Biggins and Bobby are feeling distinctly unwell. Both are sick and have to be helped off the bus and into the hotel.
The next morning Biggins admits to Linda and Pam that he doesn’t think he’s ever been more ill. And Bobby says he’s realised that, “You can’t muck about eating it.” He claims to have learnt his lesson and vows never to eat cannabis again, although the next episode preview shows that he’s game for another try.
Overall it was a very promising start to the mini-series, with the only casualties being people who clearly took far too much. Edibles are the downfall of many a newbie, as they appear to be less “dangerous” than smoking something, but at least with smoking you know from the experience that you have taken a significant amount, unlike edibles which are just food. Hats off to ITV for finally giving us something positive on weed! I’m looking forward to Wednesday’s second episode.
You can catch Gone To Pot American Road Trip at 9pm on Monday 13th November, Wednesday 15th, and the final episode will be Friday 17th, all on ITV1. Ensure you subscribe to The Cannabis Geek on Facebook to receive reviews and previews for each.