California, 90420: Behind The Smoke

I recently went to the Los Angeles private screening of CALIFORNIA, 90420: the real story of “4:20 Somethings” living in California’s semi-legalized marijuana culture. Directed by Dean Shull who brought you the comedy hit, “Waiting…”, written and produced by Steve Roberts & Colin Goldman. Starring WeedTRACKER family member John Hirsch (DJ Johnny5 – Oakland dubstep), Oaksterdam Chancellor Dale Sky Jones, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Lee,  Amber (23 year old cancer patient), & Ix (Snookie of Pot). The private screening included a meet n greet where I got to medicate and mingle with the cast and crew.  Producer Steve Roberts takes us behind the smoke of this dope new 420 documentary…


Tropical420: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! What inspired you to produce California, 90420? What were you doing before that?

Steve Roberts: Well, inspiration is a funny thing, as it sometimes comes out of necessity. After I became a medical cannabis patient in 2007 my writing partner and I penned an autism themed screenplay which was optioned by a small studio, but just when we were getting ready to attach a named lead actor the WGA strike shut down everything in Hollywood, everything except reality shows.

Then after walking into a medical cannabis collective and smelling the unique floral bouquet of some perfectly cured “Mr. Nice”; I thought medical cannabis would-be a great topic for a reality series. Around that time, Oaksterdam University opened its doors and my producing partner and I got them on board for a reality series we called, “Cannabis College”. We wanted to film different perspectives from patients experiences learning about marijuana at Oaksterdam. We did casting on 4/20, shot and edited a sizzle reel; and almost sold it to a cable distributor, but fell short.

But after Marijuana Inc received record ratings on CNBC, a friend stepped up and funded what started out as a documentary version of our reality pitch that ended up being California, 90420 the movie.

T420: So interesting that it was going to be a reality show but then turned into a documentary! Was this the first film you ever produced? And are you currently working on any other projects? :director:

SR: 90420 is the first movie my production company New Coast Productions has completed thus far. We are also producing the scripted autism feature I mentioned earlier, “PO”; which we hope to shoot this summer in North Carolina. And recently co-wrote and produced a short film called, “History in Myth”, which is set in Venice Beach and should be completed soon.

T420: Very cool you’re making big things happen. How did you pick the four main participants or “4:20 somethings” for your film?

SR: We held casting calls in LA, and in Oakland at the Bull Dog and Oaksterdam University.  Spent a few months and met hundreds of candidates; and we chose Ix, John, Dale and Amber based on what they were doing in their lives vs. what they had already done. We also wanted participants (and stories) that audiences in and outside the medical cannabis community could relate to.

T420: I think you guys did a great casting job, I definitely felt myself relating to all the characters in some way, all very down to earth. I am a little bias though and have to say my friend Johnny5 was my favorite character. What is the main message of CALIFORNIA, 90420?

SR: Thank you. It’s meant primarily to entertain people, though it may inspire some to learn more about medical cannabis. 90420 is an informational comedy that is more about people than marijuana.

T420: Would people outside the medical marijuana demographic be able to appreciate the film and learn something from it?

SR: Yes. Our film was not made to specifically target the medical cannabis demo, but for documentary and comedy lovers in and outside the medical cannabis community. :humble:

T420: Totally, anyone can relate to this film.  My friend Jacklin came to the private screening with her mom who does not smoke cannabis but still appreciated the film and even laughed at the pot related jokes! How long did it take to make the film?

SR: We shot on and off for over three years, and spent about nine months editing.

T420: That is a LONG time! But that’s how long it takes to get it right and document a good chunk of history. So cool the movie posters were printed on Hemp paper! Any future plans for a hemp clothing line with the movie logo?

SR: We should have a 90420 branded hemp shirt for sale on our website by 4/20. 


T420: Very exciting! How much footage was left on the cutting room floor?

SR: Over 420 hours.

T420: Haha, perfect amount of cuts! What film festivals has 90420 been in?

SR: We were at the the Asheville Cinema Festival which we chose because its the most 420-friendly city in the south, and one of the local colleges was rated as the top weed smoking school in the nation:Warren Wilson College Named Top School for “Higher” Learning!

90420 will be in the San Francisco IndieFest playing at the Roxie Theater this Feb 18th and 19th, tickets are on sale now.

T420: Very cool, I hope all my Bay Area friends go check out the film at IndieFest. What are your thoughts about the recent political drama in the medical cannabis states?

SR: Our government is spending our money raiding medical cannabis collectives while at the same time giving out contracts to Big Pharma to research cannabis. Smells like they are going to try and take our weed, give it to the lobbyists and resell it back to us in the form of patented, mass manufactured pills; causing the price of marijuana to rise on the street thereby increasing the supply of marijuana smuggled into the US by the Cartel. Here’s an idea… lets just grow enough supply in California for the entire country and keep the revenue in the U.S.A. I think its actually a national security issue as did: FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, and Clinton when they all signed Executive Orders identifying hemp as critical to national security.

T420: Yup, not sure what the government will do when they aren’t making tax revenue off medical cannabis dispensaries if they shut down. Which dispensary do you frequent in your neighborhood?

SR: PRC and Sea & Sand in OC.

T420: Representing Orange County! What do you like to do when you medicate?

SR: Everything. Especially creative work. But when I was in high school I would skateboard what we called, “The Run”, which was the top of Turtle Rock in Irvine all the way down to Uni high school, dodging obstacles set by neighbors, and only stopping at certain spots to get irie. We would park one car at the high school and cram into a van and drive to the top; where we would open the doors and it would look like that scene out of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. In the 80s every town had a group of “Dogtown” skate/surf rats that hit the street after dark. It was a time when being young was everything and you knew the future would be there waiting when you were ready to grow up, unlike today.

T420: Oh my god that’s awesome, I proudly went to University High school and know some of those certain spots to get irie! What is your preferred way to medicate? Bong, joint, edible, vaporizer? :bigrastajoint:

SR: Small glass pipe.

T420: Nice, what is the best strain you ever had?

SR: African Malawi. Also the Afgoo, but has to be more goo than Af.  I prefer outdoor, sativa dominate hybrids.   :tastyleaf:

T420: Afgoo is the creator of WeedTRACKER’s favorite strain too! What is your favorite stoner movie and 420 music group?

SR: CALIFORNIA, 90420! But when I was younger it was Up in Smoke. And my favorite 420 band is old school Sublime. I also think Rome is killer, but for me, music its about nostalgia. Maybe some day Rome with Sublime will be nostalgic for today’s youth.

T420: Of course! 90420 could totally become the new classic favorite film for medical cannabis patients! Do you believe marijuana is the safest choice for medicine? Is it safer than alcohol?

SR: I believe that Doctors of all types should feel comfortable having medical cannabis in their arsenal of medicines to treat patients; especially as a first line, preventive medicine, before prescribing most other drugs. Cannabis has been used as a safe medicine for thousands of years; otherwise our bodies would not have an evolved endocannabinoid system.

As far as marijuana being safer than alcohol, well…, my late wife died from alcohol and a cocktail of prescription medications prescribed to her by a “Doctor”… that’s all I have to say about that.

T420: I completely agree. My condolences about your late wife. My mom died when I was 17 from her liver failing from taking prescription pills and alcohol for most of her adult life which is why I got into this industry to educate people about the safer natural alternative of cannabis. Do you think medical marijuana will ever be federally legal?

SR: No, but I do see a time when medical cannabis will be strictly a states rights issue; allowing our federal government to spend their time and OUR money protecting us from terrorism, while not taking away our basic freedoms, like growing cannabis as our founding father’s did. I think Ron Paul calls it, “Legalizing freedom.” (Too bad Ron Paul does not also believe in responsible foreign policy and a strong military, but enough about politics.)


T420: Agreed, we just need a few more states to jump on board with medical cannabis laws and then medical cannabis states will be the majority and the government will be pressured to conform to what the country that voted for them wants right now. Do you remember your first experience with marijuana?

SR: Actually, I remember my first three. First time, I was 15, my best friend got some Santa Ana weed from his older sister, but we didn’t feel anything from it. My second time was in the schoolyard. This time it worked, just remember being happy all day and feeling like I was in a dream, then going home and eating a bag of Doritos and falling asleep till the next day. Third time, I went next door and asked my older neighbor, whom I did not know, if he knew where I could score some weed. After laughing at me, he rewarded my bravery with some purple Indica and I got so high I threw up. Good times.

T420: Haha, nice, but it was all worth it for the life long research for this film right? :) Did you have fun on your session of The PotCast?

SR: It was just like hanging out with old friends. Adam and Manny are very cool. You can listen to our episode on or watch it on Stickam!


T420: They’re definitely very cool, they’re like a second family to me.  I really enjoyed watching your PotCast session live in studio, you guys fondly remembered the WeedTRACKER Extravaganja from 2009 in that session too!  Love how Johnny5 represents with pride throughout your documentary. The dope film showed the rise and fall of CA Prop 19 and walks you through the tears and joys of being a medical marijuana patient in society today. Where & when can everyone obtain a copy of CALIFORNIA, 90420?

SR: Thank You.  Well, the movie is completed, but we have not officially announced our release date or distribution plans.  But I can tell you that 90420 will either be in theaters, on Cable VOD, or available on DVD on 4/20.  Fans can “Like Us” on facebook to stay updated.

T420: Sweet! Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

Steve Roberts: Please support our movie and artists everywhere; and just say no to piracy.  Greenest thanks for the interview.

Tropical420: It was my pleasure, thank you for your time, Steve! I’m looking forward to getting my CALIFORNIA 90420 DVD and hemp shirt for 4/20/2012! Stay irie!

:glitterleaf:© 2012

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