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“If you walk around at any given hour, on any night, you see a lot of people vaping weed openly,” says Park Slope–based animator William Levin. “You can smell it everywhere, and no one says anything. It’s just becoming part of the culture — it’s not even underground anymore.”
To reflect that burgeoning Brooklyn cannabis culture, Levin is developing an animated Web series called Growing Community, due to air by the end of the year on Weedmaps TV. The story centers on a character named Steve, whom Levin describes as a “typical Jewish, neurotic Brooklynite,” who is growing weed in order to understand it better. “He’s never had a positive experience with weed, and he’s also going through a midlife crisis,” Levin says. “His wife is wanting to have a kid and he doesn’t want to grow up. He’s growing weed as self-exploration.” The characters are all based on Levin’s own friends in Park Slope, and the setting is meant to be relatable to anyone familiar with so-called “brownstone Brooklyn.”
“You’ll see how Park Slope–y it is,” says Levin, referring to the baby strollers and nannies he included in the scenery.
But that’s not to say you have to live in Brooklyn to appreciate the humor. “[Levin’s] perspective as a New Yorker, growing weed in a Brooklyn brownstone, is an amazing point of view that hasn’t been explored yet,” says Justin Hartfield, CEO of Weedmaps, essentially a Yelp for marijuana dispensaries and delivery services. “New Yorkers are the new marijuana consumers — today more people are smoking marijuana than any other time in New York City.” After Los Angeles, Hartfield believes, New York will be the most relevant place in the world to be in cannabis commerce.
“I feel like the whole country is having a national dialogue about weed and what people should be allowed to do with it,” says Fred Blau, the voice actor for Steve. Growing Community taps into the zeitgeist, he says, around the country and in canonical Brooklyn culture. “Just sort of right now in terms of what’s happening with legalization, that means this is on people’s minds.”
New York is the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana, and in the city itself, possession of up to 25 grams (enough to roll nearly 30 joints) has been decriminalized to where it’s now considered a “violation” rather than a crime.
In the show, while the main characters think they’re doing something illicit by growing weed, no one else actually cares, says Levin. “You can see that’s the direction it’s going in in real life. I don’t know if this will do anything to help the cause, but it will probably just reflect the current state of affairs,” he says. “Also, sadly, this is a white-privileged perspective. And so I hope that I’m not making light of a situation. I want to show disparity.”
The pilot episode for Growing Community, which will likely premiere sometime this December, was the winner of the Cannabis Film Festival this past September. The series is not only about growing weed (though it might offer some good how-to tips), but about the larger growing community around cannabis. Levin used his own local friends as voice actors, composers, and technicians to put together the final product. Each episode clocks in at between three and five minutes, with Levin saying he’s been trying to nail the 4:20 mark on some of them. “Just to be funny,” he adds.
Update, November 30, 2015: Weedmaps has released the teaser trailer for Growing Community, which you can watch below.
Update, January 19, 2015: The first episode of Growing Community has debuted. Watch it below.