Is There Too Much Marijuana On Prime Time TV?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director March 28, 2010

    I was asked by Fox News to discuss a clear and growing trend on prime time TV: cannabis use

    While there have been dozens of prime time TV shows that have featured cannabis use since the 1960s, often for medicinal purposes circa the mid 1990s, currently there is a crush of shows on broadcast and cable that have one or more episodes where cannabis use is a featured part of the show. In my view, most if not all of these shows spotlighting cannabis is both an effect of the general popularity of cannabis and the herb’s prohibition.

    What precipitated this on-air discussion is the concern of the socially conservative Parents Television Council that there is too much cannabis use on TV and that this sends the proverbial ‘wrong message to children’.

    So what shows are we generally talking about?

    The Simpsons

    Family Guy

    American Dad

    Cleveland Show

    -Gossip Girl


    Parenthood (NORML Outreach Coordinator writes about the premiere episode of the show that featured…guess what?)

    Parks and Recreation

    Ironically, we were debating the appropriateness of cannabis in these popular shows on the very network that largely produces the shows in question.

    While most parents will rightly be upset and concerned if there is overt and gratuitous cannabis use on youth-oriented shows that glamorize drug use in prime time TV, but an evaluation of the story plot lines on these shows in question will often find it is the prohibition of the herb that creates the narrative friction, plot line tensions or character conflicts—not the cannabis use per se.

    Counter intuitive as may sound to some, but if the experience of tobacco and alcohol products (which are illegal for children to use) in prime time TV are an indicator of how certain drugs become unpopular, then for cannabis use to be de-glamorized and made culturally passé it will have to be made legal, actually controlled (prohibition is the abdication of social controls and policy-making) and moderately taxed.

    With ‘4/20’ just around the corner, if the experience of the last few years serve as any guidance, there will be a number of TV shows, and entire networks such as G4, Spike and Comedy Central that will have special 4/20 programming.

    *Russ adds: Minor edit to correct “Glee Club” to “Glee” – it’s one of my guilty TV pleasures.

    80 responses to “Is There Too Much Marijuana On Prime Time TV?”

    1. Free the weed. I would rather my child smoke than use alcohol. Alcohol is a horrible drug. It has ruined many a family. But the liquor lobyists keep it going.

    2. Eric Smokesbud says:

      In the 420 episode Peter gets pulled over and caught drinking while driving, with a cat corpse and shovels in the back seat and covered in blood and the police we’re going to let him go, and then bust the dog for a 1/4 ounce of cannabis. Why didn’t the report bring that up?

    3. Don says:

      We got Married on 4/20 and will be celebrating 26 Years this April, At least I will never forget our Anniversary, No matter how much or how long we Smoke – LOL!
      I smell Re-Legalization in the Air!!!

    4. Yoni says:

      That’s a weak argument at most. The only way for TV shows to top glamorizing marijuana to kids is to have the herb taxed and regulated?

      I hear the logic but it’s too eager sounding. I don’t believe any normal citizen would take that into account on the drug debate. It’s not defended enough in the article.

      [Editor’s note: See any youth-oriented TV shows where tobacco or alcohol creates the narrative? As cannabis culture and use are increasingly normalized (i.e., legal and taxed), there will be fewer and fewer subversive, counter-cultural expressions about cannabis in prime TV programming.

      ‘Why would we sing about weed any more if it is legal’, B-Real of Cypress Hill]

    5. Chadwick says:

      Wow, an interview where people weren’t at each other’s throats. Amazing that people can sit down like normal people having a more or less rational conversation about marijuana in pop culture.

      Great job!

    6. The fact that we are seeing shows like this at all is a concession by the studios themselves that marijuana is a part of the mainstream community.

    7. Stacy says:

      As a mother of four children, I still believe it is the parents number one priority to know what their children are watching. If the parents are more involved in their children’s lives, then what’s on the “boob tube” wouldn’t be so alarming to them. Spend more time with your kids and let them know you care by educating them on all things about life, not just marijuana.

    8. Anonymous says:

      Instead of saying youth oriented shows tha glamorize drug use in prime time tv
      lets change glamorize to AKNOWLEDGE


      Stop people from pretending that its not accepted when it really is

    9. Jordan says:

      Each of those shows has a rating of 14 and older. If you let your kids watch a show that is out of their age spectrum, than you’re going to expose them to materials that are best first experienced or educated about when they are older. The younger the individual, the more impressionable he/she is.

      Why do people watch Family Guy ? It’s funny, it makes fun of other things and the shock value laughs.

      You accept those are going to happen when you watch a show like that. Letting a younger person watch them is a gamble as to whether they’ll understand the situation and use self-control to inform themself. I wasn’t a stupid kid that associated drugs with cool, I did my own thing and I researched anything recreational I tried.

      I was absolutely terrified to drink liquor because of what I had been told..And when I did, I threw those scare tactics that had been repeatedly jammed in my head away.

      The world has drugs in it, they won’t go away. That’s how it is, prescription and recreational. Hiding that and letting them figure that out on their own, and using scare tactics to even frighten kids of non-harmful substances gets bad results.

      It’s as if the parents don’t want to take any responsibility of what their kids may do and just let them figure it out on their own. (Like me). If the kids are going to use drugs, they will eventually – the personality/lifestyle develops. But educate when they have the capacity to adhere to information and not try and ignore the concept of drugs.

      It’s really hard to say about how kids perceive cool. If whether it’s sold to them mainstream or the underground nature of something is cool…

      But the fact is, taking the substance out of the underground and making it inaccessible by regulation works. The more easily the consumers can legally acquire it (21 over), the less illicit supply and demand will be necessary. What does a regulated market allow ? Quality control and age restrictions. By exposing kids and informing them before they are of age to use something reciprocates a more responsible & mature user community.

      Kids still get others to buy shit for them, but that’s always going to happen.

      Gateway theory is BS also, if the substance you desire is sold in a shop that doesn’t sell other things, it’s the individual’s desire and choice to go search out the harder stuff. If I really wanted to damage my health, I’d drink the bleach under the sink. I’m just here to be “hungry, happy and sleepy”-KW.

    10. Derek TN says:

      Love the 420 episode of Family Guy! I certainly don’t condone cannabis use among minors but the use of it on television furthers our advances toward legalization by making it on the back of the mind of voters that there really is no big deal surrounding pot usage among adults. Its like saying “Sex” twenty times during a song…the subliminal message might make you want to have sex (which is great). In effect, hopefully the desensitizing of cannabis usage on TV inhibits the same response.