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Parents: Beware of 4/20


The March 31st episode of Comedy Central’s South Park devoted an entire storyline to the use of medicinal marijuana. On learning that only cancer patients can purchase the legal pot, Stan’s father Randy irradiates his own genitals, thus contracting testicular cancer, after which he is permitted to purchase the drug. After seeing Randy’s success at obtaining the legal weed, all the other adult men in town do the same. In addition to the show’s crude gags involving the men bouncing about on their grossly enlarged testes, the show focused extensively on scenes showing them smoking marijuana.


Nor was this episode of South Park an isolated instance on TV. On the March 2nd premiere episode of NBC’s new sitcom Parenthood, Peter Krause catches his daughter hiding her marijuana stash. The parent later shares it with his adult brother and sister, all of them passing a joint around and giggling as they loiter outside the school auditorium. And on the March 25th episode of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, one character (who is on probation after being arrested for pot possession) offered an impassioned plea for legalizing the weed:


“It's ridiculous that marijuana is illegal. Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. Alcohol is illegal but pot isn't? Let's just relax, smoke another jay and all calm down…I've planted marijuana in community gardens all over the city and it hasn't hurt anyone."


Unsurprisingly, it is Seth MacFarlane’s Sunday night cartoons on Fox – The Cleveland Show, Family Guy, and American Dad, all wildly popular with children -- which offer the most frequent depictions of marijuana use, with an entire episode devoted to glorifying pot. And teen-targeted shows like the CW’s Gossip Girl and Fox’s Glee also show teens and adults using marijuana with no ill effect.  


Some may argue that these are “just TV shows,” and that they have no influence on young people’s behavior. But according to a recent study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, teens “who listen to music with the most references to marijuana are almost twice as likely to have used the drug” than other teens who don’t.  


With “4/20” just around the corner, parents can expect a plethora of pot-based products to appear. The marijuana-based humor of 70’s comedy team Cheech and Chong will be given a boost with the release on that date of a concert DVD of their latest tour, “Hey, Watch This.” It can be expected that TV shows, and even entire networks such as Spike, Comedy Central and the video game-focused G4 network, may have special programming further glamorizing marijuana use.


It is sadly ironic that, even as the entertainment industry becomes more responsible about depictions of cigarette smoking and marketing foods that lead to childhood obesity, it is becoming ever more lax, and even seemingly approving, of the use of illegal drugs. 






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