When a controversial issue becomes the subject of a plotline or indeed an entire TV series, some say it’s reached a critical mass; one that could bring about a shift in public opinion and who knows a change in law.
Cannabis, in particular its medicinal use, has featured in a number of popular series of late. Could this herald the tipping point that pro-legalisation campaigners have dreamed about?
Unsurprisingly, the US has until now ruled the roost when it comes to pot related series. First there was ‘Weeds’, the Showtime series that ran and ran about the suburban widow selling marijuana to fund her privileged lifestyle. It was black comedy at its finest, but did little to explore the topic of medical cannabis.
Next came ‘Weed Wars’ on Discovery, the reality series featuring the Harborside Health Center—the largest medicinal cannabis dispensary in the US, got the ball rolling. But some criticised its lack of exploration of the possible medical benefits of the products it sold.
Right now, it’s the turn of the Netflix produced Disjointed. Starring Oscar winner Kathy Bates as a long time advocate for marijuana legalisation and dispensary owner, it’s an old school style comedy mixing up serious issues like an army vet suffering from PTSD with clichéd stoner stereotypes. Reviews so far are mixed, so who knows if Netflix will commission another series. Plus it’s debatable whether Disjointed will do much to push the medical cannabis debate into the mainstream.
Curiously, in a case of TV-Pot-cross-pollination, Netflix has just launched a range of marijuana strains designed to enhance the viewing experience of their shows. According to their press release, “each strain was cultivated with the specific shows in mind, designed to complement each title based on their tone. For example, sillier shows may be more indica dominant, while dramedies will be more sativa dominant to help the more powerful scenes resonate.”
In contrast to the zany, comedy turn on pot in the US, across the pond UK TV reflects the plant’s underground, prohibited use. Last year, the country’s longest running soap opera, Coronation Street featured the plight of a disabled character Izzy Armstrong, who in order to cope with the chronic pain of her illness, turned to buying cannabis from an illegal source. TV being TV, nothing runs smoothly and she is arrested by the police and sentenced to two months in prison.
Back in the real world, the high profile plotline proved timely for Sean Alex Langshaw, from Huddersfield, who was let off by Judge Paul Isaac for possession of cannabis and 12 immature plants in his flat. The Judge likened the case to the Coronation Street storyline, feeling sympathetic towards Langshaw who admitted to using the drug to relieve his chronic arthritis.
The judge Isaac said, “It is a criticism of our society that in order to alleviate your pain you can’t get something from your GP but he says he cannot help you to the same extent you gain relief from cannabis. I can’t encourage you to break the law I can only follow the law, which says you must not grow it or be in possession of it.”
Back in the spring, a reality TV show with the working title ‘Gone to Pot’ was announced by UK broadcaster ITV in which a group of celebrities will go on a road trip exploring issues related to medical cannabis. In a world where celebrity endorsement is everything, maybe this could be the series that breaks cannabis out of the hippy hinterland into the mainstream for the Brits.
Over in Germany the long running series Lindenstrasse a character with Parkinson’s illegally procures cannabis from a doctor friend. His wife, while unsure at first, sees the improvement in her husband’s condition and not only supports him, but researches methods of growing their own cannabis plants.
Personally, I always view my 80-year-old, teetotal mother as a barometer for the view of the nation. And it’s fair to say watching the UK soap Coronation Street she has found herself questioning her notion of cannabis as nothing other than a brain-fuddling drug causing ‘reefer madness’ . She’s now open to its therapeutic potential and if she’s changed her view, then quite possibly others might too.