America’s Stoned Kids: guinea pigs of cannabis legalisation

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Leaf me alone!

Denver, the setting of this spliffy documentary, is The Mile High City in more ways than one

  • John Marsden
Professor John Marsden. Photograph: Unknown/BBC

Marijuana use on TV has been growing like hydroponic plants under fluorescent light and a Baby Bio sprinkler. Back in finger-waggy 1990, we had a preachy one-off spesh called Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue, which saw an supergroup of Bugs Bunny, ALF, Garfield, the Smurfs, the Muppet Babies, Michelangelo the Ninja Turtle and Slimer from Ghostbusters teaching us “the million wonderful ways to say no”. But by the naughty Noughties, everyone was blazing up like Cheech & Chong. There was Nate on Six Feet Under, Frank on Shameless, AJ on The Sopranos, the Entourage lads, the entire casts of Ideal and Weeds. In Simpsons episode Weekend At Burnsie’s, Homer got high and became vice-president of the power plant after cracking up at Monty’s lame gags (“I got promoted and it’s all thanks to yes-I-cannabis!”). Weed smoke wafted through the offices of Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and Don declared, “I smell creativity.” Even dear old Dot Cotton got arrested on ‘Enders for drinking what she thought was relaxing herbal tea. Likely story, love.

The latest hit from the broadcast bong is America’s Stoned Kids (Saturday, 9.10pm, BBC2), a worthy but woozy doc about what cannabis legalisation will mean in the US. Cue copious shots of hoodie-clad fratboys huffing on pipes, all to a Cypress Hill soundtrack. It’s set in South Park country at the foot of the Rocky Mountains where, in a todally radical drugs policy experiment, the state of Colorado has decriminalised recreational use of the righteous herb. All-round addiction boffin Professor John Marsden heads to state capital Denver to get his drink on, get his smoke on, then go home with something to poke on. Sorry, I mean “seriously assess the likely impact of legalisation on a country suffering an epidemic of teen toking”. Skunk hasn’t been this hot since Pepé Le Pew.

Denver is 5280 feet above sea level, hence its nickname “the Mile High City” – which now has a whole new meaning. At America’s first legal cannabis bar, Club 64 – named after the number of the new amendment – there’s a lunk in an ice hockey shirt with “Cannabis” on the back instead of his name. Gnarly! At a local high school, students say getting stoned is now more socially acceptable than getting drunk. Vibey! At an addiction clinic for kids as young as 12, marijuana is the top problem for teens – more than alcohol and all other drugs combined. Um… cool? Main drag Colfax Avenue is lined with stores selling medicinal marijuana, dispensed by drawling pharmacists in red, gold and green beanies. Varieties on offer include Super Lemon Haze, Purple Voodoo, Bubba Klush, Mother’s Helper (isn’t that gin?) and the temptingly named Cheesequake. If you need a name for your nascent rock band, you could do worse than nicking one of these. Apart from the potent strain called Whitesnake – that’s already taken.

A politician from the pro-legalisation lobby, who’s a dead ringer for Jeff off of Curb, shows Marsden a campaign commercial featuring a toothily wholesome girl typing an email. “Dear Mom. When I was in college, I used to drink a lot. It was kinda crazy. But now I’m older, I prefer to use marijuana.” On the other side of the coin, we meet kids whose skinning-up got so out of control that their parents packed them off to rehab. Caylib has an even bigger problem with blunts than he does with spelling his name. “I started smoking weed when I was, like, 13,” he mumbles. “Soon I was getting wrecked seven times a day.” He’s kinda cute-looking, like a One Direction member gone bad (Best Bong Ever?). Alex “self-medicated” due to his parents divorcing but now realises that “mom and dad are better friends to me than pot is.” Hang on, there’s something in my eye. Although it might just be a rogue hot rock. The main lesson we learn is that on the Colorado chronic scene, rubbish beards and backwards baseball caps seem to be compulsory. On this issue I think I’m with Bugs, Michelangelo and Slimer.

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