Started at Reefer Madness, now we’re here.
In that infamous 1936 film, as prohibition was sweeping the globe, a group of teenagers lose their minds after smoking marijuana, becoming disconnected from reality and … murderously violent? “Tell your children!” it warned.
Things lightened up significantly in the 1960s, until a decade later, when Cheech & Chong’s stoner archetype dominated pop culture (and has been lounging around ever since). From Friday to Dazed and Confused, The Big Lebowski, Harold & Kumar, and Pineapple Express, cannabis consumers have still been depicted as goofy, lazy, spacey, and slow.
But that’s just the movies.
On TV, cannabis consumption has historically been kept largely offscreen. There were flashes here and there in the ’70s, like the episode of Sanford & Son where Lamont and his friend Rollo encounter a pair of familiar looking plants (growing right there on network prime-time!) in a family friend’s garden. While Lamont frets, his more worldly friend Rollo knows exactly what to do.
For the broadcast medium of the times, that scene might have been a high point.
Through the days of D.A.R.E. and “Just Say No,” cannabis largely disappeared again from TV: it was alluded to, or gravely addressed in a Very Special Episode, but rarely if ever seen onscreen. Even when That 70s Show introduced “the circle” – the wide-angle lens that spun around the center of the characters as they were obviously freshly stoned – they never showed anyone actually ingesting anything.
But as legalization spreads and user demographics broaden, the onscreen image of who uses cannabis is finally evolving with the times.
Various new shows, both narrative and non-fiction, are exploring the range of people and situations that might call for cannabis. Movies have been slower to adapt, so there’s still a distinct Spicoli/Seth Rogen-y vibe on the big screen, but cable and streaming channels are hitting the mark with a wide variety of entertainment and education.
Curious about the new look of cannabis on TV? Order on Eaze and check out one of our recommendations below. Who knows, we could be arriving with your delivery before the first commercial break!
Bong Appetit Cook-Off
Rapper B-Real hosts the new incarnation of this Viceland show, which is now a chefs’ show-down. Three contestants — who may have no familiarity with cannabis — present competing dishes infused with the plant. B-Real, edibles maker Vanessa Lavorato, restaurateur Miguel Trinidad and a celebrity guest star judge the dishes and declare a winner each episode. George Clinton kicks off the third season, which premiered earlier this month.
This much-beloved look at New York millennial life may have ended its five-season run this year, but the Comedy Central show will forever stand as a reflection of changing attitudes around cannabis and its consumers. For Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s characters, weed is as normal a lifestyle choice as coffee. The two women manage to channel the playfulness of Cheech & Chong into pointed observations about gender and culture.
At the center of this HBO series is “The Guy,” who delivers weed on his bicycle across New York City. Though fiction, the show presents a wide-ranging and believably realistic picture of cannabis consumers as The Guy visits people’s apartments making his rounds. His customers aren’t slackers, but as weird and varied as any sampling of big-city residents might be. The series is a collage of character portraits — characters who happen to use cannabis.
Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Party Challenge
If you aren’t hip to Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg’s VH1 cooking show, you’re missing out: they have such cute chemistry and regularly have great guests. Martha and Snoop don’t cook with weed, but their enthusiasm for the plant is well known. The duo kicked off their third season this month with a “4/20 Munchie Smackdown” featuring Matthew McConaughey, Isla Fisher and Method Man.
Also from Viceland, this documentary series provides one of the most comprehensive pictures of cannabis around. Host Krishna Andavolu spends three seasons exploring the range of the plant’s applications and legality across the country and the globe, from parents in prohibition states trying to procure cannabis as a treatment for autistic kids to the implications for marijuana cultivators in Colombia and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Weed the People
Produced by TV host Ricki Lake, this documentary advocates for the least stereotypical cannabis users: children with cancer. Released in 2018 and available on streaming platforms, the film focuses on families’ efforts and concerns around giving marijuana to their kids. Lake says she hopes it raises awareness of how federal reclassification of cannabis would enable much-needed medical testing, which could result in new treatments for a range of illnesses.