Is There Too Much Marijuana On Prime Time TV?

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.

0 thoughts

  1. 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?

  2. 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!!!

  3. 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]

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. I’m unaware of the extent of how much marijuana culture there is on TV, (btw, That 70’s show is another contender for cannabis content).
    But the reason it gets secular focus is because it’s still a shock and awe concept to see anything related to weed on TV. To some it still is a shock and taboo. If it was a non-illicit activity like drinking alcohol, it wouldn’t really raise an eyebrow.
    It’s a part of society that still explodes when it’s dropped each time because it’s still armed. Take the illicit nature, the shrapnel out – and it’s just a falling piece of metal containment.

  10. we our an up and coming demographic, hungry for connection to a society thats recognizing us. Finally

  11. I thought this article was going to be aout a particular pet peeve of mine, which is when marijuana is used on a tv show, & then the effects are just ridiculous things, that never actually happen when you’re high.these tv is where most older people get their information, and having neve tried weed, they have no choice but to blindly believe that smoking a joint could make you homicidal, or caus some other ridiculous outcome.

  12. The burden lies on parents to filter what types of information their children receive and to discuss it accordingly. These shows are based (albeit very loosely) on everyday life, which includes “mature themes,” so it’s better to address such topics before they become moral dilemmas in the home.

  13. I can’t believe they can point at cannabis use on those TV shows and ignore the constant alcohol references. Homer in the Simpsons has gotten drunk almost every episode…

  14. I would like to point out to everyone who might be reading these… Three of the shows mentioned; Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and American Dad are all made by the same crew of people. So obviously the themes will float from show to show. I would also like to point out that most of the programming mentioned is rated TV-MA (the Seth McFarlane ones are), which is not intended for younger audiences.
    When parents allow their children to watch these shows, they have to understand that they are going to be exposed to these types of things. So once we get past this premise (By allowing my child to watch this programming, I understand that he/she will be exposed to adult things) what is there to worry about?
    And honestly, if it offends anyone that much, all they have to do is change the channel or turn off the tv.

  15. There can never be enough cannabis on network tv. We’ve been tobaccoed and alcoholed to death. Let’s have a little Normlization!

  16. HAHA, the look on Alans face when they air ‘The Cleveland Show’!!! He’s laughing because he’s anticipating something hilarious happening referencing marijuana.. Priceless..
    Thank you Alan, you definitely rock.
    Tyler D.

  17. Speaking of cannabis related content on tv, how about a dedicated show for it? There already is! has tons of cannabis and hemp related videos along with links to watch full movies online.
    There’s also Cannabis Planet, a show airing in SoCal, but also available online at
    Send these links to friends, family, people would could potentially be MMJ patients for various ailments. Spreading the message of truth will help towards destroying the barrier created by fear, lies and doubt spread by the government and programs like DARE.

  18. I love how she objects to attractive, clean cut people using marijuana.
    They should make a new law where only ugly, unshaven people are allowed to use cannabis, so as to discourage its use among young people.

  19. I would like to start a movement to make April 20th a national holiday. Any suggestions for a good name would be helpful. I love the song “everything goes better with a bag of weed”. I can see all of the commercials on TV in the future with their catchy little tunes promoting their brand of weed.

  20. Eric is right, the host stated that some of the episodes featured content containing cannabis, but never specifically stated what the content was.
    The whole version of the song from Family Guy is actually a song parodying the illegality of cannabis. It’s not aimed at kids, it’s aimed at adults that can vote and change it.

  21. when are parents going to get involved and monitor what they watch.. not tvs fault. instead of complaining why dont they do just one simple thing…. be a parent and dont allow children to watch certain things. but i guess they want the govt and tv to raise there kids. i dont hear them complaining about the condom commercials or victorias secret comercials.i understand they dont want their kids doing drugs.. but what happened to talking to your kids about drugs and such. parents are the solution not the govt.and also turn off the tv and get involved in your kids lives.

  22. That’s America for you. A stressful country needs to find some relief. People are getting informed and using Marijuana instead of pills, Alcohol or hard drugs.

  23. Nice job! These people that worry so much about what there kids see or think need to learn how to parent. My parents instilled all my beliefs in me at a young age and trust me no TV show changed those because i loved and respected both my parents. These parents that worry and try so hard lose the children’s respect. I saw it happen with many friends and the ones with really strict parents always did stupider and worse stuff as sort of a way to get back at there parents for being so harsh on them.
    Today they know I’ve changed my mind on the use of cannabis now that im an adult and they still love and accept me. And thanks for getting me all excited for 4/20, i cant freaking wait!!
    Happy Responsible Smoking

  24. People just don’t understand that once marijuana is legal, it just wont be talked about like it is now.
    I won’t visit sites like this, search youtube, blog on my local newspapers website, go to marches, etc.
    In a way it’s kind of saddening to think about because we all won’t be getting together on the net or having the marches and whatnot nearly as much other than a 420 gathering or the like.
    I’d miss my electronic friends, lol.

  25. I love when she said “There is drug use with no consequences on TV”
    I guess she was longing for the long gone day on TV when ever someone used drugs their lives fell apart. Guess what? Sometimes people use drugs and have fun.
    “I went to a rave, I did E, smoked some weed, danced, did some glass in the morning cause I was tired, it was great. you should have been there.”
    The reason the anti drug government programs are so infective is because they lie to children. Guess what lady, the kids figured out that drugs don’t kill you every time. Now on TV kids are doing drugs and nothing happens to them, god forbid.
    Your answer is to bring back the infective government propaganda? Maybe we should bring back 8 track tapes too.

  26. Right from season 1 of the Simpsons, Homer has lusted after beer. Before that, we’ve had entire shows take place in bars, Cheers for instance. These sitcoms are clearly aimed at children, yet where are the complaints? I understand some people not liking drugs on tv but damn, have a sense of perspective! Drugs have been on tv for decades the difference is that they’re legal. The message should be clear: it’s the illegality of marijuana that’s the problem, not the effects.

  27. keep up the good work man. legalization is coming sooner or later…hopefully sooner

  28. 2 things and one question…
    1. I don’t care what she thinks parents should do. I don’t care that she’s the president of some organization that promotes ideals that can never be reached… only pursued.
    2. You may have children. I have children. Let’s agree, however, that WE don’t have any children.
    Question: Did Mr. St. Pierre ask the host of the show to just “call me Al”?

  29. Also, if the watchdog parents’ group is really concerned with the cannabis being shown on Family Guy, I can’t help but think that maybe they have overlooked some things.

  30. Lulz at the 420 song from Family Guy.
    Its so funny because prohibition belies this plants benign nature.
    People need to get off of the moral high horse and stop pretending the world should bend the knee to it. A child raised right is a child who will make the right decision for his/her self.
    Exposure is bound to happen, its awareness, not illegality that determines the childs actions. How many times a day do you think a child hears from, well just about everyone, that politicians are evil and untrustworthy? Of course no one listens to those stupid laws…..
    They think keeping it illegal will “help”. Ha…..

  31. I find it amazing how stupid people become when they try to defend prohibition. Every parent knows that the best thing for children to learn is the truth. Children are supposed to learn that it is wrong to lie.
    So if science proves that marijuana is safer than other legal products; and is also a medicine for a variety of ailments, why put your ‘head in the sand’ when it comes drugs? If parent groups were really interested in saving children they would demand that the government tell the truth about drugs. And that is all Family Guy is trying to do.
    And wouldn’t it be funny if marijuana use decreased once it no longer carried the thrill of breaking the law? This could happen over the long run as marijuana and marijuana consumers become rather ordinary.

  32. nobody mentioned it but every ep of that 70’s show had the circle and while they aren’t makin new ones they still run twice a day on the cw.

  33. I really like this Melissa Hensen lady. She presented her side in a very mature and responsible manner, not only respecting the views of her opposite, but presenting hers while not conflicting words with Allen. I think they both have relatively good points that were made, and I find it unfortunate they did not bring up more issues or had more time in which to do so. I personally believe in seeing MORE marijuana in the media, but in a responsible sense. (You know, alcohol companies place a tiny little unreadable footnote for a half a second at the bottom of the screen at the very end of the commercial to get away with it) However, we need to be able to stress that mature and responsible use is the ONLY use in which should be allowed, and we will not settle for any less, like the tobacco and alcohol companies who merely see this unfortunate mis-happening to be additional financial income. We need to do this because people are still afraid. They’re afraid of children being able to get ahold of it more easily, while still unknown to them that it’s actually easier with prohibition.
    The first step to ending prohibition is education. Educate yourselves, educate your neighbors, educate your kids, and write in and educate your government officials. Once we’re all in the know, we can end this drug war peacefully, as us hippies are ones to do, rather then violently, as our government is one to do… XD Sorry… had to throw in the hippie part.

  34. Great clip. I was going to give Melissa Henson credit for actually coming across as surprisingly pleasant, and I guess I still do, but what’s interesting here is that she’s not actually arguing in favor of the prohibition of cannabis, her position doesn’t seem to extend any further than the depiction of it on television, and kids getting in trouble with the law. In the end she largely comes off as somebody frightened by the change she sees in public perception. Great job by St. Pierre here, I have yet to see an appearance by one of the NORML or SAFER folks where they don’t come across as the more sober, reasonable figure in the discussion.

  35. Guys, yesterday on tv I watched Gangs of new york (great flick) and they didn’t edit out any curse words besides fuck. they said nigger and everything in between but left just one censored. The times are gettin better and this family guy 4/20 song is just golden. millions of Americans are going to watch that and may actually resolve a lot of tension, even just in families. Not to mention the tension resolved after they all blow down. I can’t wait for 4/20 foos! Some Purple-ass Dank awaits!

  36. Excellent job by Allen! It was good that he got to add the part about cigarettes and how we hadn’t needed to arrest people to reduce its use.
    I would have liked the conversation to turn to Big Pharma and their constant commercials bombing the hell out of our kids! I’ve got grandkids that are talking about sleeping pills (Ambien) and pain pills! Gee, I wonder why? They’re just as illegal as pot without a script plus they can kill a kid. I guess deadly pills are more tolerated… just as their ad revenues are.

  37. I love how the lady from PTC basically says it is ok for cannabis to be on TV as long as they are portrays has horrid criminals, but it is wrong when it is portrayed as normal as alcohol use for example. God knows there is 100´s of alcohol commercials on all the time.

  38. “No more oppression!
    We as American adults with free will
    have the right to use marijuana if we choose to.
    Enough government profiteering
    under the guise of morality!
    Enough with this
    phony war-on-drugs!”

  39. Has nothing to do with this article but Paul and editor please make an article explaining how many more people would gladly be Police Officers, Firefighters, and FBI etc etc if they could smoke marijuana after a stressful days work…Wow would this country be elite if that would some day happen sign me up when it does!!!(Away with testing for THC on drug tests!!!just dont be stupid and smoke on the job!!!)

  40. I’m perfectly fine with them taking marijuana off of theese shows under 1 condition they take off all drugs that may influence kids legal and illegal, now think how boring tv will be. Yes that means no coffee no sugar no booze no tobacco no pot etc. So what tv would then wind up being would be some guy or girl sitting in a cubicle twirling his thumbs for 30 minutes.

  41. I say there isn’t enough. If just a few television shows can get spotlight attention for even a moment then every show an the air should dedicate a season to it!

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