Considering the immense popularity of the recent Harold and Kumar movies (Go to White Castle and its sequel Escape from Guantanamo Bay) and the inevitable commercial success of the new Judd Apatow film, Pineapple Express, one might wonder whether the stoner flick is making a pop culture comeback. Not since the exploits of Cheech and Chong in the 1970’s and 80’s has recreational marijuana use seemed so entertaining.

It’s true that many films include fleeting scenes of using illicit drugs, smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol – but movies’ plots rarely center on the use of illegal drugs as a primary theme. In Pineapple Express and Harold and Kumar, however, the marijuana-influenced exploits of the main characters are the stories to be told by the films. The audience simply follows the bumbling duos along their chaotic journeys, laughing with incredulity at how they survive tight spots, despite being so high.

(SPOILER ALERT! For example, Harold and Kumar find themselves held as terrorists in Guantanamo Bay after assembling an electric bong onboard a plane to Amsterdam while Dale and Saul experience a high speed car chase after they steal a police cruiser.)

As funny as these movies are (admittedly, I’ve seen them all), they made me wonder whether the glorification of marijuana use in these films might increase actual marijuana use among the teenagers who are bound to see them, despite their “R” ratings. A recently published study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that marijuana is the most frequently abused illicit drug among school-aged adolescents and that its use is associated with increased rates of truancy and lower grade point averages. Marijuana use may also worsen symptoms of depression in adolescents. So, it’s clear that marijuana abuse can be detrimental to adolescents’ academic and social lives, but it seems uncertain whether marijuana use in movies actually influences teens to smoke (or could persuade them not to smoke).

In the end, the issue is probably one for the movie industry and not for drug enforcement. By not permitting underage adolescents to view movies like Harold and Kumar or Pineapple Express, both of which make smoking weed appear fun and widespread, moviemakers may be able to stop adolescent drug use before it starts.

Austin Broussard

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