By Robert Nevel
Not everything is pro-pot on the internet regarding Florida’s Amendment 2, “Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions.” The picture of two lungs, one mildly blackened and the other one severely, sat on the timeline of a Miami-Dade College student’s Facebook. It was meant to be a warning against smoking pot.
The anti-marijuana ad hails from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics’ Facebook Page, but there it was on the Facebook of a teenage girl from Miami. A reminder that not all young people in this state are necessarily good for Florida’s “Yes On 2” movement with the United For Care campaign. As much as certain demographics might agree it is destined for victory, there is still a real chance it could lose. With a strongly Christian-backed “No On 2“ campaign under way it may not be as easy as predicted. Sixty percent of the vote is needed for the amendment to pass.
“Polling has been all over the place, and I’m a little distrusting of some of the pollsters,” said Miami Beach comedian, political activist, and founder of the 4TT Network, Steve Berke
4 Twenty Today (4TT) is a cannabis themed YouTube broadcast run by a ragtag group of like minded individuals. Led by Berke, the channel has been posting comedy styled videos for four months. However, Berke started his weed activism with popular song parodies and was posting videos as far back as four years ago on his other YouTube channel.
“I got started in political activism with a music video parody I released in 2010 called, Should Be Legalized,” said Berke. “It was an Eminem parody about the legalization of marijuana. To date, it has over 2 million views.”
After being involved for a few years, he had his biggest hit. A parody of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” which Berke renamed “Pot Shop” proceeded to garner over 14 million views and counting.
“I was doing stand-up comedy in Miami when I started performing some of my music parodies on stage,” explained Berke, “(…) but I realized that if I really wanted to reach a broader audience, I would have to start putting my content online, so I reached out to a friend of mine from college and we collaborated on my first three music video parodies.”
The Ivy League educated Berke unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Miami Beach twice but the failed attempts got him press and reportedly shook up an otherwise buttoned down local government. For now, his political aspirations to be mayor appear second to his endeavors with 4TT into cannabis themed entertainment and news.
When videos at 4TT are not centered on music they are scripted by journalist and writer Lee Molloy, who is responsible for writing a bulk of the channel’s material – including an exactly four-hundred and twenty word bulletin on cannabis news of the day.
“While we were attempting to put out content daily, keeping up with the volume of work was incredibly difficult,” said Molloy, adding that by scaling back on the uploads “I am able to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. Furthermore, attempting to write content that is pot friendly, and appeals to stoners, but doesn’t alienate non-marijuana users is challenging.”
Berke and 4TT’s latest musical statement, a parody from the musical Grease renamed “You’re the Law That I Want,” was infamously banned from Youtube over a “bogus copyright” claim that 4TT managed to get overturned just a few days ago. It was down for a full month leading up to election day with only a week left. With previous airtime on Comedy Central’s @Midnight and social media support, the video represents their efforts to help “Yes On 2” despite some qualms Molloy and Berke have with the campaign itself.
“I don’t think United For Care is doing a great job running this campaign, however, I do hope it passes,” said Berke.
“By mobilizing the youth, who don’t really bother to vote in midterm elections, the ‘Yes On 2’ campaign could have gotten so many more people to the polls,” added Molloy, who had a harsher view.
Molloy cited United For Care campaign manager Ben Pollara’s strategy as the cause if the amendment fails to pass.
“Pollara decided he didn’t want the help of those willing to pound the pavements to get out the vote, and exclusively went for the senior citizen vote – that’s right, the demographic least likely to vote for medical marijuana, but most likely to come out to vote overall.”
However, Pollara told Tropicult yesterday, “we need broad support and I believe that we have broad support.”
He also pointed out that they have a Headquarters on Miami Beach that works to “organize phone banks, get people to come out to early voting, [hand] out literature,” and more.
“We have businesses all across the state that carry our literature in their stores,” Pollara said to illustrate that they accept a helping hand when offered, with various businesses helping spread their message to the masses.
Molloy argued that “Pollara didn’t want to hear from any of the marijuana activist groups around the state whom, with some financial support, could have mobilized supporters to come out to vote.”
4TT’s issue with lack of financial backing could be due to lack of finances. The (multimillionaire lawyer and politician) John Morgan funded campaign might not be brimming with cash. Pollara said, “We’re also up on radio and television everywhere except for South Florida – it just happens to be very expensive to advertise in South Florida.”
Pollara revealed United For Care has lately been making small but definite progress with ads in the area.
Regardless of whether the amendment passes and for what reason, Berke said 4TT will stay active post-vote. One main difference might be the ability to broadcast actual cannabis smoking which could increase viewership from their modest yet substantial just-over-five thousand subscribers. There is currently a growing audience on Youtube for videos of people smoking high quality and sometimes impressively high quantities of cannabis that 4TT could tap into. Some of those homemade Youtube channels reach over one hundred thousand subscribers.
Recently, when Denver based Youtube weed celebrity Paul Tokin visited for a weeklong collaboration with 4TT (Tokin and Berke are personal friends) his viewers complained at the lack of pot smoking on the channel. Tokin’s videos from newly legalized Colorado regularly feature high definition close-up footage of melty hash hits or rich green bong rips.
Maybe the plant would stay behind the scenes if medical marijuana loses the vote but according to Berke, “4TT plans on continuing to be the internet’s source for cannabis related news and culture.”
Photos Courtesy of Steve Berke & United For Care