Previously, the topic of marijuana on both network and cable television has been limited to reality shows, 60-minute specials and the occasional antics of Conan O’Brien or Jimmy Kimmel. But that is starting to change.
The most recent Gallup poll reported 58 percent of the country supports cannabis legalization, and some states have had medical marijuana programs for over a decade. It is a consistent topic of conversation on social media and in presidential debates. Seeing that marijuana is part of millions of American’s lives, tv networks are starting to test the waters.
HBO is seeing the genius in High Maintenance, an already-successful web series on Vimeo. While the politics of an independent web series becoming property of an entertainment juggernaut has sparked debate among fans, HBO has ordered six episodes with the potential for more.
It is worth noting that many of the new projects are using legal marijuana dispensaries as a backdrop to their stories. Parks & Recreation’s Adam Scott is set to produce a show for NBC along with his wife, producer Naomi Scott, about life in a legal Colorado dispensary. Kevin Smith is so excited about his show “Hollyweed” that he foot the bill for the pilot. It also centers around life in a marijuana dispensary, and is being sponsored by companies within the cannabis industry. Margaret Cho is part of Highland, a series for Amazon about life in a dispensary owned by her parents. This show will have more of a dramatic bent, with Cho’s character attending court-ordered rehab.
A script co-written by Chuck Lorre and David Javerbaum is being shown to major networks and direct-to-consumer providers like Netflix. The plot involves an ensemble cast of coworkers at a Colorado dispensary. Lorre and Javerbaum have 24 emmys between them, which might be enough to convince networks to pick up the show.
These projects involve enough influential actors, producers and networks to signify that cannabis culture will start to appear in mainstream entertainment more frequently. Stay tuned.
As Hollywood begins to embrace cannabis culture on the small screen, makers of vape products are using product placement to target a wider audience. The Direct-to-consumer platforms like Hulu and Netflix seem like obvious choices due to their lack of FCC oversight, but premium cable and even network television channels are embracing the potential ad revenue from a ten billion-dollar industry.
Back in 2014, NBC’s Hannibal depicted Laurence Fishburne’s character Jack Crawford using an Arizer Solo with his cancer-stricken wife, highlighting both the recreational and medicinal applications of cannabis, not to mention the emotional intricacies of being a caregiver. Although the main goal of product placement is to fund a show, seeing a corporation like NBCUniversal feature medical cannabis, despite federal prohibition, was a bold statement.
Pax, the makers of the Pax and Pax 2 portable vaporizers, seems to be the most prolific in terms of product placement. Comedy Central’s Broad City shows the Pax being used by the main characters. Recently, the Pax was seen in Showtime’s new series Billions, specifically by a billionaire hedge fund manager, his wife and his colleague. These scenarios depict the use of cannabis by a variety of people, rather than the typical Hollywood portrayal of the 24/7 stoner.
Season two of True Detective featured the Volcano, a vaporizer that is massively popular among seasoned vape fans and often used in a communal setting. With a $600 price tag for their latest model, this is a niche product that fans recognized instantly.
While these scenes are quite familiar to cannabis users, they may be enlightening to viewers who have limited knowledge of marijuana culture. The idea that cannabis can be used safely on occasion is a sharp contrast to the depiction of all-consuming substance abuse so often dramatized in mainstream entertainment. With networks creating entire shows around cannabis culture as well as advertising vape products, the public debate regarding marijuana prohibition will continue to develop.