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Marijuana Portrayal in Media

Posted on 11/09/18: Addiction Recovery \ Addiction Treatment
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When you think of portrayals of marijuana on TV and in films, what are the first movies and shows that spring to your mind?

You’d probably think of some stoner classics produced by Cheech and Chong, or Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Maybe you’ll think of The Big Lebowski, or some particular episodes of That 70s Show. If you’re not a marijuana user yourself, it’s likely that these portrayals of marijuana are how you’ve been introduced to this drug. And so you would be forgiven for thinking that weed is a dangerous drug that impairs the brains of the teenagers using it, or at least a gateway to other more dangerous drugs.

The Effects of Marijuana

The media’s representation of marijuana has been skewed for the most part. After viewing any of the properties mentioned above, anyone would tend to see marijuana as a dangerous drug that causes addiction and mental problems, leads to worse substances, and even gets you into trouble with those pesky drug lords. Recreational marijuana use could very well lead to these outcomes, but its use under medical supervision for those that need it to treat a chronic illness is not always portrayed. This portrayal can negatively impact those that use marijuana under the prescription of a medical professional for strict, non-recreational purposes.

Take Cheech and Chong, for example. Their stoner comedies regularly list under “Essential Watching.” After using marijuana, the duo immediately proceeds to lose their mental faculties. Their intelligence dips by twenty or so IQ points, and they perform acts that are increasingly incompetent. Up in Smoke, for example, is the saga of their clumsy attempts to smuggle weed to Los Angeles from Mexico. The very premise is rooted in the same kind of stupidity that is so often correlated with marijuana usage. Half Baked and Dazed and Confused take that concept further, portraying marijuana users with that same delicate nuance.

weed in a jarThe idea that marijuana usage leads to idiocy is a stereotypical and mainstream one, and the movie simply reinforces that. The same goes for Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, wherein the drug gives the duo hunger pangs that are too intense to be curbed, and off they go on their comical misadventures.

Wherever marijuana is not depicted as a drug that results in carelessness (albeit the fun kind), it’s portrayed as a gateway drug. On 90210, Dick Harrison famously fell into heroin abuse following his use of marijuana, leading to his eventual overdose and death. You might also remember Weeds, where Mary-Louise Parker plays a widowed mother of two who begins to sell marijuana in her affluent neighborhood as a means to provide for her kids. On the show, she constantly comes across exceedingly angry users, and even ends up in some life threatening scenarios when she runs into drug lords.

Unfair Representation of Marijuana

People scared of the drug think of marijuana as a dangerous substance, and these portrayals of marijuana continue that cycle of fear. Marijuana is therefore always painted as a substance that will destroy lives. Granted it can, but this idea carries over and stigmatizes users that need marijuana for medical relief. Both alcohol and tobacco are highly addictive substances, and both of them cause their fair share of deaths and destruction. And yet, neither of the two is represented with the same level of vitriol as marijuana is. Your favorite characters will enjoy a glass of port on screen with no questions asked. But if they pull out a toke, that’s going to be the focal point of the entire scene.

It must be noted that medical use and recreational use are two completely different concepts. The purpose of this blog serves to help others refrain from passing judgement on those that choose to opt for the drug as their method of medication.

Coming to the medical use of marijuana, it is no better represented on screen. The cannabinoids THC and CBD are the active ingredients that help medical marijuana users – the former increases appetite and helps with pain, nausea, inflammation, and muscle control issues. The latter also positively affects inflammation and pain, and research has shown it could be potentially used to help treat addiction and mental illness, and reduce epileptic seizures.

On TV and in film, this portrayal of medical marijuana is near absent. The sleeper hit Transparent, for example, did showcase the use of medical marijuana, but only by patients who got access to the drug by lying about their condition. In real life, people using marijuana for its medical benefits do so in order to control their symptoms. Depictions like these therefore simply stigmatize these users.

It must be made clear that, in no way, is marijuana use encouraged. This blog serves to enlighten those that equate all marijuana use with delinquency and poor decision-making: the individuals that use this substance upon receiving a prescription from a medical professional aren’t bad people and shouldn’t be stigmatized as such.

The more representation of this kind, the better able we’ll be to fight the stigma for those that use the drug for medical purposes in order to relieve the discomforts of chronic illness. Call Sober Living today and chat with us on any uncertainties or concerns you may have regarding drug use and addiction.

Content for Sober Living Arizona by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment and technology. Advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

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