Over the course of three nights on British terrestrial television recently, “Gone to Pot” was broadcast. In it, we were treated to the sight of a group of five quite aged (and pretty minor) British celebs travelling around California and Colorado looking at legal cannabis – and specifically at legal medical cannabis.
While there wasn’t an awful lot in the programmes that those in the know regarding cannabis (recreational and medical) wouldn’t already be privy to, it should be remembered that the programmes weren’t aimed at this particular section of the viewing public. Rather, they were clearly intended for the much greater part of the UK population who know either very little or nothing at all about the medicinal potential of weed. And from that angle, the programme seems to have been successful.
Most of the group had various age-related health problems such as arthritis, knee pain, back pain, insomnia and suchlike, and therefore a major theme of the programme was supposedly to investigate the effect of cannabis on these. Each member of the group had a slightly different view on the whole subject of cannabis, so we had the sceptical one; the curious one; the “give it a try” one; the anti-drugs “naysayer” one, who rated cannabis right up there with heroin and cocaine in terms of harm potential.
Another theme was to “investigate” the different aspects of legalisation in an attempt to decide if legalisation in the UK would work or not. Our five celebs swung back and forth on this particular issue.
In all, the programmes were amusing and entertaining. Well known faces got stoned and a couple took whiteys. It was all very subjective and presented in a safe and friendly format, which appears to have resulted in a lot of buzz about the programmes and a real mix of people appear to have watched them.
And here’s the thing; these programmes went out over three nights at prime time (so after the 9 pm watershed, but at peak viewing time) on a commercially funded television channel. This is both very important and very telling.
Putting all the comedy value of “celebs get stoned and have whiteys for entertainment” to one side, the idea of programmes such as these should theoretically be to present both sides of the case in an impartial way. As any cannabis user in the UK will know, this very rarely happens, the whole issue is superficially handled and the usual tropes are somewhat negative. In the case of “Gone to Pot”, however, this changed and the programme makers seem sympathetic to the whole idea of legal cannabis in the UK. There were a number of valid points made – albeit hidden slightly below the superficiality – and while all of these may be completely obvious to the thinking cannabis user, a lot of them were probably less so to anyone else watching. The result was fairly well balanced drug education and a fairly well balanced presentation of both the advantages and the disadvantages of legalisation.
The fundamental question here is, of course, why show this now? Over the past three or four years in the UK, medical cannabis has become less and less “niche”, but one still has to know where to look for decent information that’s half way accurate and non-judgemental. The makers of “Gone to Pot” appear to have achieved just that, while simultaneously catapulting the entire issue of cannabis legalisation properly into the public domain.
Are we being “softened up” for a positive shift in policy? Who can say? If it is indeed the case, then the programme makers deserve praise for presenting the basic issues in a way that’s both fairly even handed and populist: this is a tough balancing act, but they appear to have achieved it in a way that a more “serious” programme with a procession of “expert” talking heads wouldn’t have