Reefer Gladness: Has the Media Finally Gone Green?
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 02/07/2014 in Medical Marijuana Laws
The recent surge of marijuana in mainstream television truly begs the question – has the media gone green? There’s been a growing trend of pot portrayal within the televised media as of late and we’re going to dissect its message a little further. An increasing acceptance of cannabis has been substantially permeating the media recently. So much so, in fact, that I’m going to go out on a limb and argue that the use of cigarette smoking in recent media exposure is more stigmatized than that of the usage of marijuana.
Marijuana has been gaining national attention through various media platforms, be it via news publications, sitcoms and series, films and/or music. Marijuana as we know it is being disseminated into the media and gaining national attention as the “least” of one’s drug dependency concerns, an exit drug so to speak – a term I’d heard for the very first time at the New York medical marijuana hearing.
It appears whatever channel we’re watching nowadays, the presence of marijuana seems to be a rather permanent fixture. From ESPN SportsCenter to CNN Prime time News and ABC network sitcoms, this apparent Green Rush is no longer just a pipe dream, it’s the here and now. No longer is the cannabis community represented by the generational Cheech and Chong’s and Harold and Kumar’s of the media – pot-smoking duo’s on unstoppable munchie missions. We’ve come a long way since the day of reefer madness, and it seems the media’s self-awareness of marijuana’s increasing popularity in this country reflects the recently released gallop polls – showing that nearly 60% of our country feels marijuana should be legalized. And this cultural shift is something worth noting.
For most Americans living in the 21st century, it’s safe to say that television is their primary mode of media immersion. In sitcoms like That 70’s Show which began in the late 90’s, marijuana usage began to have a more jocular presence. Back in 2010, the Director of Communications and Public Education for the PTC, Melissa Henson, argued that the use of marijuana throughout television is successfully working to “communicate that idea that it’s not only acceptable behavior, but normal behavior.” And this is as close to a verbal milestone as the media can project.
In furthering her statement, Henson responded in an interview with The Atlantic that, “There’s a wink and a nudge when it comes to pot use on television.” She went on, “It’s pretty much treated as acceptable, as normal…’This is something that everybody does, and everybody knows that everybody does it.'”
The shift is depicting a meaningful gray area that cannabis users can finally get on board with. Gone are the days of black or white marijuana representation throughout television. The televised media no longer drags out marijuana use in extremes of Half Baked and Dazed and Confused, after-school specials and public service announcements. Instead, marijuana references are more subtly alluded to throughout the mainstream. Big wig media executives may finally be catching on to the notion that marijuana doesn’t dictate an all or nothing subject. Cannabis can be present in television and movies and not be the pervasive topic. Shockingly, it can simply exist as an aside, and let the plot take the foreground. Marijuana is not the face of addiction, abuse or excessiveness – as Henson said, “This is something that everybody does.”
With Colorado’s recent recreational legislation and the East Coast green rush of gone-legal states, the emergence of marijuana in any context is becoming nearly impossible to dodge these days. Between sitcoms, news specials and sports channels, it’s become a challenge to go an hour or two without hearing so much as the mention of marijuana in one context or another. That alone is just how prevalent cannabis has become throughout the media. I can confidently say that on the whole, marijuana has become more prevalent in recent sitcoms and highly rated episodes than that of cigarette usage. In fact, in multi-season sitcoms like Shameless and Sons of Anarchy, joints and spliffs are smoked as regularly, and as frequently as cigarettes. In Shameless, marijuana usage is seen in an entirely normalized and temperate light, meant to juxtapose the severity of alcoholism strongly carried throughout all four seasons of the show. Equivalently, the frequent marijuana usage amongst the characters in Sons of Anarchy offers a stark juxtaposition to the heavily involved gang violence prevalent throughout all seven seasons.
On this week’s episode of Modern Family, husband and wife duo, Phil and Claire became suspicious of their youngest son, Luke’s whereabouts and their oldest daughter, Haley noted that Luke was hanging out at the old salvage yard, where kids go to her high. Claire insisted she and Phil go right to the yard, and Phil asked Haley, “Wait, wait, are you sure?” And in a moment of absolute comedic timing and toker triumph, Haley responded, “I’m gonna answer and then I’m gonna walk away, deal? I’m 420% sure.” Even as Phil mentioned the term, “smoking grass,” further on in the episode, Phil said as an aside, “Wow, she’s bad at math.”
In a recent episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart absolutely annihilated Bill O’ Reilly’s rather unintelligible thoughts on the use of marijuana. In a segment titled, “Is America Going to Pot?” on the O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly makes the bold claim that smoking marijuana is literally equivalent to playing Russian roulette. In taking him down, Jon Stewart refers to the O’Reilly Factor as “The Old Timey Americana Restoration Hour.” Stewart begins, “Literally Russian Roulette! Bill, what are you talking about, literally? In fact, I think the only difference between a bong hit and pointing a loaded gun at your own skull is that the gun can kill you instantly and must never be criminalized or restricted in any way ever – ever!”
Comedic actor Seth Rogen said in an interview after wrapping up the film, Zak and Miri Make a Porno, “I think a lot of people smoke weed. I think way more people smoke weed than the media likes to agnowledge. Maybe it’s just the people I’m around, but I don’t think so. Pretty much everyone that I know smokes weed sometimes…”
CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta’s documentary Weed premiered on prime time news this past summer, and generated a spark that ignited an everlasting flame in mainstream marijuana exposure. Whether it’s acknowledged in medical or recreational terms is truly not of the utmost importance. Its recognition and acceptance alone is notably making great strides for the cannabis community far and wide.