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Stoned Alone & The Mainstreaming of Cannabis Movies

August 1, 2018
(Charles Krupa/AP)
The internet is ablaze with the latest announcement of Ryan Reynolds’ major studio “stoner comedy” Stoned Alone. A reboot of the John Hughes/Chris Columbus Christmas classic with a major cannabis twist, this film will center on an “unproductive” adult grower who must use paranoia to his advantage when outwitting bumbling criminals.

Cannabis in the movies has most often been prominent in indie productions, laying into counterculture and underground cinema. For years, pot appeared on film in a series of what would become well-honed tropes.

From stone-y characterizations in Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke to Spicoli’s righteous appearance on Fast Times at Ridgemont High, cannabis in film has always been the prop commonly associated with rebellious teens and beleaguered adults living unhappy lives.

Hollywood ganja (and the people who smoke it) hasn’t always been painted in the most positive light.

Toking Up on the Silver Screen

At its best, weed on film is often used as a bonding mechanism, a tool to give a group of characters (and the audience) permission to let down their guard as they wax philosophic about their demons and society’s ills. Which, at the very least, gives cannabis credence as a “drug” with depth.

It wasn’t until Harold and Kumar took their trip to White Castle that audiences got to see complex, stoned characters, who—while flawed—were also capable, comical, and fully fleshed-out in their humanity. The film’s unexpected popularity resulted in a sequel which was well-funded for an expectedly high customer base.


9 Stoner Movies That Changed the Game

As legal and regulated weed culture spreads throughout the nation, demand for entertainment with a cannabis-positive demographic in mind will surely be mainstreamed. We can see the changes happening on the small screen—streaming and cable television have made room for varied conversations about pot and culture.

Reynolds’ step into the world of stoner-flicks isn’t ground-breaking, and already sounding as if it may contain some tired tropes and misinformation. For instance, any grower worth their salt would know if they were growing a paranoia-inducing strain.

Hopefully, as weed culture evolves in our society, the interpretations of cannabis—and its many uses—will make a significant turn on the big screen.

Ma'Chell Duma's Bio Image

Ma'Chell Duma

Ma'Chell Duma is an Author, Public Speaker, and Culture Connoisseur. You can follow her cocktails, tacos, travels & travails on Instagram.

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  • Dante-the-cat

    No doubt it will have a few tired cliches buried throughout. Aside from documentaries, cannabis in the media is always the same – young guys get high and do stupid shit for laughs.

  • Highway 69

    I think Reynolds is a talented actor with a natural flair for comedy. I look forward to seeing this!

  • jontomas

    From the article:

    >>>”It wasn’t until Harold and Kumar took their trip to White Castle that audiences got to see complex, stoned characters, who—while flawed—were also capable, comical, and fully fleshed-out in their humanity.”

    I disagree. I loved the first Harold and Kumar, but, what I believe were the two most outstanding comic treatments of marijuana were before H&K. Showtime’s Weeds series and the movie “Homegrown,” starring Billy Bob Thornton.

    Both contained tremendous story lines, intelligent actors/characters, and top-notch writing and directing.

    A story about an “unproductive grower’ doesn’t sound too promising, but let’s hope for the best.

  • kyled

    I think one of the best earlier examples of cannabis use in a film was in Poltergeist. I realize that this wasn’t one of the first movies to show marijuana use, but I think the way it is portrayed is important. In the movie, the mother and father are seen smoking cannabis before they go to bed. They are able to function and put their kids to bed while on cannabis. Cannabis is not portrayed as a bad thing; nothing bad that happens in the story is a result of the cannabis use. They portray it as a very normal thing to do and don’t call any undo attention to it. I think that the subtly surrounding cannabis in the film is what makes it work. It’s not a plot point and the scene is only a few minutes long. I think cannabis in film in this manner helps to normalize it’s use. I sometimes worry that overly blatant use in films might turn some people off. Of course Stoned Alone is an exception because it is a major plot point, but movies like Cannabis Kid, I think give it a bad rap.
    Side note: The remake of Poltergeist explored this scene using alcohol instead of pot, I think because they were trying to take the safe route, but I feel it ultimately leads to it being a more generic scene.