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Potcasts to tune into in 2020
These days, everyone has a podcast.
If it’s not an investigative true crime thriller, it’s sex-positive gab time over rosé with c-list celebrities. From how-to’s and whodunnits, to storytime and advice, it seems everyone has their top five favourite podcasts locked in, downloaded, and ready to recommend at the next family function. And if they don’t, its probably because they’re too busy hosting one. In fact, thanks to the rise in the popular media format, sticky sweet (read: junk food) reality shows like the Bachelor, and its female-lead spinoff the Bachelorette, ended up producing more podcast hosts than actual couples (its whole mandate).
Over the last year, certainly one of the most noticeably diversifying subgenres of the medium was that of the “potcast”: podcasts, but about pot. Clever, I know. Weed-focused podcasts, however, aren’t new or revolutionary, by any stretch of the mean. Getting Doug with High, in which stoner comedian Doug Benson seshes with various celebrity guests (usually other big time or up-and-coming comedians), started in 2013. The format of the show has evolved over time, but was one of the first to include segments like history, specialized bong and pipe features, “pot topics” (current affairs, news, legalizing states, and whatnot), quizzes, and games—all relating to cannabis. Today, most potcasts have an offshoot of similar weedy segments. Then, there are the podcasts featuring pot, like the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE). While it’s not explicitly intended to be a cannabis-centric show, host and UFC commentator Joe Rogan often ends up hotboxing his studio with guests while they chat about getting high or the wonders of microdosing psilocybin.
To understand just how pervasive this medium is, a research survey published by music blog, Music Oomph, compiled data from five large analytics firms. Its findings place the number of podcasts going into 2020 at over 700,000 active shows, comprising over 29 million episodes and spanning 100 languages. That’s over 150,000 more active podcasts than the number Apple announced in 2018. The same dataset attributes more than six-and-a-half hours a week to podcast listening—for the average weekly listener—with over 80 per cent staying plugged into an entire episode, or at least most of it. Considering the overall median episode length for podcasts in 2019 was just over 36 minutes, that would mean the average listener tends to tune into around 11 podcasts per week. These numbers dub podcasts one of the top digital entertainment engagement rates alongside streaming services like Netflix, which has an average watch time of just over eight-and-a-half hours per week per viewer.
With the seismic waves of 2018’s federal legalization still causing ripples throughout Canada, an increasing number of state-by-state legislative shifts just south of the border, and a global shifting of attitudes, there are surely a few more potcasts set to debut in 2020. Here are a few great ones to check out now while the others are composing their opening jingle:
Spark one and sit back
Amidst the cloud of potcasts, one of the bingiest shows is Great Moments in Weed History. Co-hosts and cannabis journalists Abdullah Saeed and David Bienenstock ("Bean") smoke and tell truly iconic stories from the plant's history—from jazz legend Louis Armstrong sparking up in New Orleans to Hunter S Thompson's run for sheriff of Aspen. It’s a great show to learn a little more about how cannabis rooted itself in modern culture, but its also just a fun background listen when you’re high and hanging out.
Acerbic humour, hard topics, and media-savy guests—Chronic Relief is probably one of my favourite potcasts online right now. The show is hosted by the ever-quippy comedian Rachel Wolfson who rose to digital infamy thanks to her uncanny ability to pop out consistently viral and oh-so-relatable weed memes. Considering her sarcastic wit and general vibe of badassery (s’cuse me while I lady-crush for a moment), you’d think her potcast would just stick to the funny. But, no. Wolfie (her social media name), also takes on subjects like mental health, drug addiction, the rejection of gender as a social construct, and the scary state of American politics. Coupling a bunch of cool creatives as guests and the damn near flawless audio, each episode is simply a great conversation to eavesdrop.
Considering Canada made headlines in 2018 as the first G7 country to legalize adult-use cannabis, its no shock that there is a plethora of potcasts combing through the various developments happing right here in the Great White North. Some are awesome, others…aren’t. A safe place to start is with the Cannabis Media Collective moderated by Michael Pedersen. The group of Canadian media producers pump out several different shows throughout the week, including the interview-centric Flower Hour, the award winning Cannabis Update Podcast, the science focused Periodic Effects, and Nicolle Hodges’ deep dialogue show The Dopist. The collection is a stacked array of listening goodness offering various structures, styles, and subject matter...with a heavy helping of maple syrup.
If you’re not interested in trying out your green thumb, this isn't the potcast for you. But, if you’ve ever wondered how CO2 interacts with plant roots and how its absorption can accelerate growth (who hasn’t?), The Dude Grows Show is exactly what you need. The hosts and various featured growers unpack cannabis cultivation, culture, and news, with loads of information, including tips on pest control, the pros and cons of specific grow mediums, advice on increasing yield, and how to navigate issues with pH. And because there are so many questions on how to get the plant to grow like a weed, there’s a new episode every couple of days.
An easy entry point
If you’re new to keeping up with the weed industry, a good place to start is a potcast hosted by the permanently-peppy Jimmy Young. Each week on In the Weeds, the Emmy Award-winning producer and veteran sports broadcaster brings in some of the top names in the public eye—from activism pioneers like Steve DeAngelo to MJBIZ Con co-founder Chris Walsh. They generally do their standard plug-type “why we’re the greatest at what we do” spiel, but his shows act as a fairly consistent barometer of the current state of the industry at a digestible entry point. Fair warning, the editing can sometimes miss the mark—considering the technical prowess of competing counterparts—with more than few episodes registering pitchy or echoey audio. Don’t expect revolutionary ideas or boundary-pushing hot takes, and if you’re a chronniseur who keeps up with the times, click elsewhere. But if you want a comprehensive and compelling handful of interviews with the top talking heads of the canna-biz, Young’s show is a formidable starting point.
Psychedelics, in general
It's a lot of fun to listen to Jackee Stang talk...about anything. The host of the podcast Delic Radio is a digitized hippy, with a slight Texan draw and peace-and-love kind of ease to her opening monologues. She’s smart, she swears, she goes on tangents, poses large overarching questions and ideas about human nature, and says shit like: “Ketamin is fascinating…it’s a substance that cuts through the butter, the depression, fog, self hatred, and the monster to create space for you to explore your trauma.” The show focuses on destigmatizing psychedelic substances—and one of the easiest ways to do that is talking about it using the same candour you'd use to discuss your breakfast. Stang does that about everything from weed and mushrooms to more experimental psychedelics, and all the substances in between. Her guests are diverse on a number of levels (gender identity, ethnic background, and knowledge of plant medicines) and she doesn't shy away from asking them “uhm, can you say that?” questions in a way that makes them not seem so awkward. Stang is the potcasting equivalent of that stretch you do right before you roll out of bed in the morning: refreshing, rejuvenating, and necessary.
The Deadhead Cannabis Show is a pretty cool blend of genres. Old-school Grateful Dead fans cannabis CPA Jim Marty and pot law attorney Larry Mishkin chat a mashup of current affairs, legal matters, and music—all relating to weed. In recent episodes, however, the hosts teased a new show called the Cannabis Breakout. The concept is to unpack the injustice of the drug war and episodes will include interviews with currently and formerly incarcerated individuals charged with cannabis-related offences. Something to keep your ears pricked for in 2020!