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?
First there was ‘Weeds’, the Showtime series that ran and ran about the suburban widow selling marijuana to find her privileged lifestyle. It was black comedy at its finest, but did little to explore the topic of medical cannabis.
Fast forward a few years and there has been a subtle shift in tone when cannabis makes it to the small screen. ‘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.
In the UK, the country’s longest running soap opera, Coronation Street recently 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.”
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.
And finally, Netflix has just commissioned a series called Disjointed starring Oscar winner Kathy Bates as a long time advocate for marijuana legalisation, finally realizing her dream of running a dispensary. Netflix has ordered 20 episodes, perfect for some serious sofa-binging. But with its billing as sitcom, it remains to be seen how deeply issues such as the medicinal use of cannabis can be covered.
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 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.