Five years ago, Bernard Noble was riding his bike around New Orleans, having just visited his elderly father at the car radio shop he had owned for years. Noble Jr, a 49-year-old Creole food enthusiast, was a beloved member of the community and a vibrant, hysterically funny character, a man who inspired a deep sense of loyalty in all that he met and knew. “Larger than life”, some have described him as. “You can’t help but love him”, say others.
Noble had two joints in his pocket that fateful day back in 2011 – two joints discovered by police officers when they pulled him over and frisked him. Not a lot then, but enough to send him to jail for a minimum of 13 years. That’s over a decade of a man’s life spent behind bars, all because he got caught with 2.8 grams of pot. He’s five years into his sentence now: not even halfway.
Noble’s case is the main focus of Weediquette’s third episode “War On Weed” – one that takes an in-depth look at the deeply flawed and broken US judicial system and the war on drugs that has cost so many their lives. In that way, the episode is more ‘procedural’ and linear than others so far, and it benefits from the additional focus. Rather than taking the scattershot approach that has defined the show, host and creative force Krishna Andavolu keeps proceedings grounded, and Noble and the injustice he faces are the anchor that ensures the episode never floats off into waffle.
Better still, a range of perspectives and views are considered. Noble’s family are interviewed, providing a much needed personal perspective on a case that might otherwise have become overtly political, along with a range of lawyers, pastors and protestors.
And yet almost all the talking heads interviewed reveal the same thing: that the American government’s approach to drugs is so broken that it’s almost Kafka-esque. The surreal legalities surrounding marijuana possession mean that even the judge sentencing Noble had no intention of putting him away for such a toe-curlingly long stretch of time: complicated rules surrounding priors, combined with a Draconian attitude to weed, mean that sometimes harsh sentences are unmoveable.
In that way, the episode echoes a lot of sentiments made in the powerful Netflix documentary The 13th. Both examine the racially discriminative element of anti-drug laws, and the sense in which a war on drugs is really designed as a secret war on people of colour, an excuse originated by Nixon with the intention of allowing police officers to unfairly target African-Americans.
Not that Weediquette is as good as The 13th, mind you. Andavolu is still not the perfect host, and his overenthusiastic, slightly babbly mania can be quite distancing for casual viewers. Even more jarringly, the show is yet to master tone or pacing, and occasionally huge swathes of important data and story are washed over to make room for Vice-esque asides.
Nonetheless, the episode does inspire a very real sense of rage and resistance, as Noble and the powers that be he faces are starkly made plain. This might not exactly be perfect TV, but it’s important, the kind of socially-conscious programming our airwaves are lacking at the moment.