VICELAND’s Weediquette returned this week (we previewed this season’s stories) and saw host Krishna Andavolu investigate what it’s like to be an American family caught in a marijuana-induced deportation quagmire.
The season three premiere (“Deported For Dope”) centers around Kenault, a green card carrier who arrived in America from Jamaica in sixth grade. We never see him on camera, for reasons that will become obvious, but the story is relayed in heartbreaking fashion by his young family.
Melissa Lawrence tells of meeting Kenault in high school — where he was a state-ranked wrestler and described by a close friend as “always smiling” — and dating him after graduation. They would “become best friends” and “a great team” and eventually have a son, Devario. Along the way, Kenault was caught selling marijuana to a friend, and advised by his court-appointed lawyer to plead guilty to charges of distribution. He served three months and was released in 2009.
“He made a mistake,” Melissa tells Krishna. “He was willing to pay for it.”
If only he knew the extent he’d have to.
Years later, the young couple went to deposit their cash savings at a local bank. Suspecting the bills to be counterfeit, the bank teller called police and had the funds seized. Infuriated, Melissa threatened to file charges against the department. Shortly after, Kenault was called into the police station, where he presumed the money would be returned.
Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was waiting to detain him. Kenault was sent to a maximum security prison, where his original charge of distribution was inexplicably upgraded to drug trafficking, making it an aggravated felony charge — and making him eligible for deportation. Melissa was six months pregnant.
Police later admitted the bills were not counterfeit. And yet, Kenault was officially deported in 2014.
Krishna’s conversations with Melissa, some conducted while stringing Christmas lights throughout her and Devario’s fatherless home, make it clear just how much has been seized from the family. More than a husband and wife being separated, they’ve lost irretrievable moments. Kenault’s intention to propose was spoiled when Melissa found a ring in their house while he was incarcerated. Their wedding ceremony, like most, culminated with “You may kiss the bride” — but Kenault had to blow the kiss through prison glass. Kenault missed the birth of Devario, his only child.
In search of legal clarity, Krishna meets with a deportation expert and an immigration attorney for answers. How can a legal resident who has paid his debt to society suddenly be incarcerated in a maximum security prison — without an attorney — and eventually deported? (It’s complicated.) How did the country’s immigration policies get to this point? (It’s borderline sinister.) How widespread and devastating is the deportation dragnet? (Very.) What’s the best way for people like Kenault to receive justice? (Ummm…)
The episode closes in an appropriate setting — and in familiar territory. Weediquette, to its credit, has a habit of exploring personal tales that expose a system designed to produce more questions than answers. While the stories can be devastating, perhaps their public unmasking will prevent a slide into hopelessness — and maybe even inspire change.
Watch the episode in its entirety below, and previous episodes at VICELAND.com.