The Simpsons Go to Pot as Homer and Marge Join the Legal Cannabis Industry

The Simpsons' latest episode offers a refreshingly mature take on the politics of cannabis legalization.

As the movement to legalize marijuana grows worldwide—and cannabis companies continue to proliferate—recreational adult-use is becoming an increasingly mainstream subject.

It's also proving to be an increasingly difficult question for parents to address, as it's hard to warn your kids about the "dangers of marijuana", now that dispensaries resemble Apple stores and are becoming a commonplace fixture in many US states and Canadian provinces.      

And there's no better example of this than the most recent episode of the long-running animated sitcom, The Simpsons, which sent Marge and Homer on an adventure through the legal cannabis industry.

Now go sell the safe, legal drug our kids should never, EVER, use! Especially, Bart. Homer Simpson

The main plot of the episode—which is amusingly titled "Highway to Well"—kicks off when Marge places Maggie into a progressive childcare centre which is paid for by tax revenue from Springfield's newly legalized cannabis retail sector.

With a surplus of free time on her hands, Marge quickly manages to accidentally talk her way into a sales job at a high-end cannabis dispensary which is owned by former boxing champion, Drederick Tatum, who serves as The Simpson's animated stand-in for real-life heavyweight Mike Tyson.

The decision to include Tatum as the mouthpiece for the legal industry proved to be a perfect choice, as it allowed the writers to make numerous references to Tyson's rapidly expanding marijuana empire, along with his plans to construct a 400 acre resort in California which will be a "Disneyland for cannabis users".     

The episode also mines considerable humour from the contrast between the clean, professional, brightly lit dispensaries of 2020 and the dingy black-market drug dealers that have historically been associated with cannabis use.

Otto just wants to buy some pot and stumbles into a fancy dispensary.

In one of the episode's funniest sequences, Springfield's resident school bus driver and long-time stoner Otto has his buzz killed by a visit to Tatum's dispensary, where he finds himself confused and overwhelmed by the clean, friendly atmosphere and diverse range of cannabis products.

The experience prompts Otto to team up with Homer and Moe to create a cannabis retail experience that provides a simulation of the days before the "tie-dyed bong monkeys" cleaned up and went legal.

Together, the trio set up a backroom weed dealing business in Moe's unused storeroom, which comes complete with every black market cannabis cliché, from unused hand weights and exotic pets, to a dealer dressed as a "cool toddler".

Homer's co-worker Lenny is even on hand to play the stereotypical "weird friend who never acknowledges you" that remains seated on the living room floor playing video games while the transaction takes place.

simpsons weed
Otto: "It's all stems and seeds? THANK YOU!"

These two plotlines eventually come to a head when Tatum—concerned that Homer's and Otto's regressive approach may jeopardize the squeaky-clean image that the cannabis industry is trying to project—implores Marge to rat her husband out to the health department.

This leads to another brilliant true-to-life detail, as Homer's underground cannabis retailer is eventually brought down by a health code violation—for serving edibles without a license—rather than ending up as another casualty of the US government's overly-zealous "war on drugs".

In fact, this plot point was likely inspired by a number of similar incidents in the US, as state regulators increasingly crack down on businesses that play fast and loose with cannabis and CBD edibles.

Unfortunately, for all its commentary on the state of the US cannabis industry, one area where the episode completely misses the mark is its failure to acknowledge the terrible cost that America's anti-drug crusade has wrought on non-white communities.

The decision to side-step this topic—along with the ongoing incarceration of people of colour for trivial cannabis offences—is a regrettable choice in an episode that otherwise offers wry, well-observed commentary on the legal adult-use industry.   

However, despite this lamentable blindspot, the episode is still a refreshingly sensationalism-free depiction of the growing mainstream acceptance of cannabis legalization.

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Legislative changes are blowing through the US, and with it, an ever-increasing number of states legalising cannabis for recreational use.

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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