Tonight at 10 p.m., watch the premiere of the CNN Original series "Inside Man," hosted and produced by documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, which profiles the medical marijuana industry.
CNN: It sounds like what makes "Inside Man" different from other shows is the fact that you truly and fully performed eight different jobs. Can you tell me a little bit about what each of those jobs entailed?
Morgan Spurlock: The best part of “Inside Man” is that each week I get to be immersed into a different world. I'm neck-deep in an experiential story that takes me to the front lines of some of the most debated issues in the country today: marijuana, guns, immigration, education, elder care, unions, bankrupt cities and the worst drought in U.S. history.
For marijuana, I worked in the largest dispensary in the United States, Harborside Medical in Oakland, California. It's a non-profit cooperative that sells more than $25 million worth of marijuana and cannabis products per year. It's pretty incredible, and in the episode, I become your weed connoisseur.
After that, I head to Fredericksburg, Virginia, and work alongside the good folks at SSG Tactical, one of Virginia's most reliable and success gun retailers. While there, I sell firearms to the well-armed masses while we try to understand what drives America's gun culture.
The next week, I make my way to Florida to pick oranges alongside a few of the millions of country's immigrant laborers. While Washington debates what to do with the huddled masses, I attempt to understand what brings them here and why they risk so much to be part of the fabric of America.
Week 4 is all about education, and I follow in my mom's footsteps, becoming a teacher in both Finland, which has the most successful education program in the world, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which for years has not had the most respected pedigree when it comes to preparing our kids for the future. But things are changing, and schools are now taking greater risks to achieve greater rewards.
Probably my favorite episode of the season is Week 5, where we look at the world of elder care and end-of-life issues. I go back home to West Virginia and move in with my 91-year-old grandmother, Tootie. She still lives on her own and is still a pistol, but once you reach that age, health problems abound, and if you don't prepare for them early enough, you have much bigger problems down the road.
Week 6 looks at the largest bankrupt city in America, Stockton, California. Most of us have no idea what would ever cause a city to declare bankruptcy, let alone what it takes to get out of it. While here, I talk to the folks who it’s affecting the most: the citizens of Stockton, who, since the city filed for bankruptcy, have seen their police and fire departments downsized while crime and mortgage defaults escalate.
Did you know that 2012 was one of the worst droughts in U.S. history? Did you know that 2013 is predicted to be even worse? Well, unless you're one of the thousands of farmers or ranchers living in the heartland, you probably didn't, but you also probably didn't realize that it affects even you. In this episode, I move in with the Wellnitz family in Chadron, Nebraska. They've been ranching for years, but this could be one of their hardest years yet.
Our final episode in the series looks at unions in America. They were the backbone of the middle class for decades, but with the majority of manufacturing jobs now overseas, have the outstayed their welcome? I speak to the people are still fighting for their unions, as well as those who say it’s time for the free market to take over.
CNN: Name one thing about each industry you were embedded in that Americans would be surprised to learn.
MS: At the dispensary, I was surprised to see how many people came in who were legitimately sick.
- In the gun store, it was interesting to see how much fear drove purchases for most of the clientele.
- While picking oranges in Florida, I was blown away to learn how few American-born pickers actually exist - almost none.
- In the education episode, I couldn't believe how far behind we still are in America when it comes to educating our kids.
- While living with my grandmother in the elder-care episode, I was speechless when I learned how much it costs to go to a retirement home. Many of them are well over $6,000/month.
- In Stockton, America's largest bankrupt city, I couldn't believe how there were no ramifications for cities that make poor investment choices.
- While ranching in the drought episode, I was deeply moved by the passion and conviction of the Wellnitz family. To me, they are the core of what it means to be an American.
- In the union episode, it was fascinating to see that unions recognize how many mistakes they've made over the years.
CNN: I understand that at the marijuana dispensary, you were gobsmacked by the various forms of marijuana. Can you tell me about the different choices, maybe set the scene?
MS: First off, it’s beautiful there. It's better designed and prettier than many traditional health clinics I've been in. And on the shelves, Holy Toledo, are there a lot of choices! They had everything from jars of weed, to pre-rolled joints, to hash, to creams and salves, tinctures, lozenges, cookies, cakes, candy bars, drinks, you name it. If you can eat it, someone somewhere can put medical marijuana in it. I couldn't believe it.
CNN: What is your favorite product from the marijuana dispensary?
MS: They had marijuana tabs, like those Listerine breath strips you can buy. Pretty crazy.
CNN: The elder care episode was especially personal for you because you were caretaker for your own grandmother. Was it hard to balance the many day-in, day-out job requirements with your personal feelings about your grandmother?
MS: I love my grandmother. Would do anything for her. So for me, it was always much more about making sure she was happy and had everything she needed. When I was growing up, she was always so wonderful to me; I feel like it’s our responsibility to take care of our elders, but it just seems like society and our busy lives have made it too easy to lock the elderly away and justify it with a variety of excuses. I hope my kids will do the same for me, but in reality, they'll probably just put me out to pasture like an old horse.
CNN: What did you learn from your grandmother that you never would have found out had you not had the privilege of being her caretaker?
MS: I would not have heard so many intimate stories about her and my grandfather, how they fell in love, what life meant to her, and why she lived such a full and wonderful life.