You might want to get high if you’re going to listen to the podcast Great Moments in Weed History — at least, that’s what your hosts Abdullah Saeed and David Bienenstock (a.k.a. “Bean”) will encourage you to do.
At the beginning of the show, they remind listeners to pick up a joint or a bowl and partake along with them — a virtual smoke sesh through the airwaves — which carries a larger impact than what you might expect from a seemingly casual gesture. It wakes you up to realizing just how much of a social connector cannabis actually is, and has been, throughout history.
Saeed and Bienenstock approach their episodes like a couple of old pals recounting, say, a documentary that they loved. You feel like you’re in their circle, which is why that initial invitation to smoke at the beginning is crucial to the mood of the podcast — now in its second season.
To learn more about what sets their content apart, what their own favorite moments in weed history actually are, and why cannabis content is an important part of entertainment culture, Civilized caught up with the podcast’s co-hosts. Saeed and Bienenstock cover a lot of ground, oftentimes elaborating on stories, legends, and movements that have always had a whiff of cannabis to them, but often aren’t looked at (or rather, sniffed out) in depth.
The author of How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High, Bienenstock tells Civilized that the mainstream is now very pro-cannabis, polling at a majority for some time now. “That wasn’t the case when Abdullah and I started writing and making media about weed,” he says. “But it is now, and I think that happened, in part, because all kinds of people were willing to speak up, be honest, and tell the truth about this plant.”
Saeed, himself an accomplished producer and actor, speaks to this authenticity: “If you satisfy the real heads, they will be ambassadors for your content. And after years of being transparently pandered to by brands and mainstream media, weed people are highly sensitive to bullshit.”
In their inaugural season, Great Moments in Weed History covered stories like the origins of 4/20, hash’s big European debut, Jesus of Nazareth’s alleged anointing oil (made with cannabis), and the iconic Fela Kuti and his impact on music and the world.
Fan submissions have also helped shape the show. One listener suggestion to explore wrestling and cannabis crossover lore even led to an episode on just that: In 1987, villain The Iron Sheik and ‘all-American hero’ Hacksaw Jim Duggan — enemies in the ring and friends in real life — both lost their jobs after a major breach in kayfabe (the term for pretending that the rivalry matches are real and not scripted). When the pair was arrested for smoking cannabis, Bienenstock says, “it changed changed the world of professional wrestling forever.”
“When I dug into the details, it became a story about so many things,” says Bienenstock, “like racism and xenophobia, the line between entertainment and propaganda, the role of the CIA in Iran and how that led the Iron Sheik to flee his home country, the immigrant experience in America, the enduring appeal of the wrestling heel, and the redemptive qualities of cannabis.”
Great Moments in Weed History serves an important role in bridging the gaps in public education around cannabis, giving much needed historical context to where we are in today’s moment of cannabis history. Saeed and Bienenstock don’t take this lightly; they are not just a couple of stoners hopping on the mic to shoot the shit.
Bienenstock says that the research and care that they put into each episode is meant to honor the heroes of cannabis culture, and to spread the true history of the plant. It brings perspective to the complicated conversation that exists in our federally illegal reality.
“Abdullah and I are both media professionals who’ve spent a lot of time learning how to tell stories that resonate (yup, pun intended),” Bienenstock jokes. “But we’re also true believers in cannabis, who’ve smoked a million joints in parking lots and behind bowling alleys. So we bring a lot of experience and perspective to this endeavor that can’t easily be replicated.”
Tune in to the rest of Season Two if you want to hear more amazing tales of cannabis heroes like Barack Obama and his ‘Choom Gang’, the ever-iconic Cheech and Chong, or the story of the short-lived “Hollyweed” sign. Each story brings us that much closer to understanding the real deal in weed history, and how that’s integral to crafting its future.