Rethinking Marijuana in the Movies

A minor ruckus has erupted in Hollywood over the R rating assigned to the Meryl Streep romantic comedy, “It’s Complicated,” as reported in The Times’ Dec. 10 post on the Company Town blog, “It’s complicated, but ‘It’s Complicated’ will be released with an R rating.” According to The Times, those familiar with the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s hearing on the movie say a scene featuring “pot smoking with no bad consequences” was key to the decision. But imagine the ratings wars that the MPAA’s latest warnings will ignite:

“This film is rated R for brief alcohol use portrayed in a positive light.”

“This film is rated R for pervasive cigarette smoking by sympathetic characters.”

“This film is rated R for aberrant overeating and intense caloric consumption.”

Wait, you say you haven’t seen these warnings? Not a one? That’s because the MPAA, the powerful group that rates movies, has never much cared for consistency. So, while few parents would want their children to engage in any of the activities listed above — let alone the violence frequently splattered across screens — only in the most extreme cases do these behaviors move the MPAA to issue an R rating.

But illicit drugs are a different story, and the MPAA seems intent on scrubbing even less-restrictive ratings clean of any depiction of marijuana that fails to show the substance in a sufficiently negative light.

The ratings board made its intentions clear when it slapped an R rating on “It’s Complicated” for including a brief, realistic depiction of adult marijuana use. The movie also briefly bares the buttocks of a double for Alec Baldwin. But according to industry insiders, the reason for the R rating is marijuana: The film dares to show beloved stars Baldwin and Streep casually using marijuana and enjoying it, followed by Streep dangling a joint in front of Steve Martin, all without suffering any adverse consequences.

To be fair, it is complicated. The MPAA empowers parents to make informed choices about their kids’ viewing habits. But in this case, the characters are doing nothing more than what countless American adults do responsibly every day.

And when you consider the current social and political landscape — in which California lawmakers are considering legislation to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol and 13 states have legalized marijuana for medical use — you have to wonder whether we’re just burying our heads in the sand when we pretend that marijuana hasn’t already gone mainstream. Wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge reality and be honest and direct with kids, sending the simple message that marijuana, like alcohol, is for adults, and as a society we can manage it rationally and responsibly?

In the meantime, our children do have other, more wholesome film options that carry the lesser rating of PG-13. Consider, for example, the ambitious epic “2012,” which tells the heartwarming story of global annihilation just a few years down the road. On a more intimate scale, there’s the inspirational “Armored,” featuring a crew of gun-toting armored guards who plot a robbery that goes violently awry. Alternately, adolescents can check out the latest incarnation of “Sherlock Holmes.” It’s generously packed with violence and pipe puffing, but the MPAA tagged it PG-13, so it must be OK for kids.

Ultimately, between TV and the Internet, movies and video games, real life and imaginary play, kids these days are going to be exposed to just about everything. So the idea that we can keep them in the dark about adult marijuana use makes no more sense than refusing to talk to kids about sex and hoping they won’t discover it themselves.

It is true that images have an impact, and words have an impact, so parents are right to be attentive to what their kids watch, hear and do. But it’s also true that the example that kids follow most closely is not what they see on the screen but what they experience in their own home. The MPAA can issue ratings in the name of protecting the children from now until the end of time — or 2012, whichever comes first — but in this case, the only people they’re really sheltering from the truth are themselves.

– Article from Los Angeles Times.



  1. Anonymous on

    every movie should begin with a showing of Reefer Madness to protect our children and keep america morally clean

  2. G-nonymous on

    It somewhat irritates me when people go on saying that cannabis isn’t a drug. You need to check your definition of what a drug actually is; any chemical or substance that alters our normal bodily functions.
    While it is true that cannabis is a plant and has never killed anybody, it contains a plethora of psychoactive cannabinoids including our beloved Delta9-THC. These cannabinoids bind to specific receptor sites in our brains and bodies to exert a wide range of effects such as analgesia, increased appetite, euphoria, increased sensual appreciation, reduced nausea, bloodshot eyes, interruptions of short term memory, so on and so fourth. Even a cannabinoid that is not psychoactive at all and which only demonstrates anti-inflammatory properties would be considered a drug, just like ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory pain killer).
    The fact that a substance is virtually non-toxic or non-lethal doesn’t exclude it as being defined as a drug, because a drug is any substance that alters our bodies’ normal way of functioning, not just the one’s that could kill us.
    Take, for instance, psilocybin-containing mushrooms or even LSD which are both virtually impossible to overdose with. No one would deny them as drugs because they very fundamentally alter the way our minds work.
    Some people need to get over the fact that cannabis is a drug and others must get over the fact that not all drugs are evil or devastating to society. Cannabis is undoubtedly a drug, although so far as I am concerned it is more so at par with caffeine (also a drug) than with alcohol.

  3. joe on

    Marijuana is not a drug because it cannot induce death by toxicity only drugs can induce death. That is how the drug gets its Bin number.
    Alcohol is a drug it can cause death. But herbs that cannot cause death are herbs and the FDA has no case for calling marijuana a drug and should be challenged in court

  4. jonathan from ontario on

    this is to the person a few comments up, why does there have to be consequences, why!!! i dont understand, what would happen if there was’nt consequences, people would just go home, instead of jail. cuz what else damage is there, noone gets hurt from smoking pot so why should anyone be punished at all. so the cops can keep all that big fat overneeded budget they enjoy to enforce these out dated laws that were spawned from propaganda like refeer madness, well i say that is madness in itself, doing something like arresting people over and over with no good reasoning is the definition of insanity, Einstien said it himself.

  5. Anonymous on


  6. hey consequences have actions guy on

    if you read the bible it says that god gave every seed baring plant and herb for you and me to use, it was not restricted in old testament times, Jonathan my namesake was a hash eater, read, he dipped his sword in the honey wood and was elightened, is a reference to the people running though the the hemp fields to collect rub hash of the finest kind and unfortunatly almost extinct way of hash production.

  7. Anonymous on

    This was fucking fun to read 😀

    Nice one G-nonymous, keep em comming more like that 😀

  8. G-nonymous on

    Don’t you people realize…there has to be consequences!
    When people do drugs and have fun there has to be consequences. Even if there wouldn’t actually be in reality and people left well enough alone. Consequences must be fabricated to keep us in check!

    And it doesn’t matter what is right, it’s only wrong if you get caught.

    If it’s not wrong, but you get caught and somebody says “yah it is wrong because Jesus and the Bible said so” then consequences must be pulled out of the ass of authority and you will be stoned to death for getting stoned even though you never would have died were it not for you getting stoned and then being stoned to death.
    Are we on the same page now?

  9. THC on

    In light of the fact of the crushing penalties that can still befall one for partaking of this “noxious” weed; it seems prudent to warn away or restrict viewing of said activity by those who might mistakenly view it as acceptable in present day society……no matter how ludicrous that may seem. That is the real damage use of this herb can cause. No penalties……no harm; literally!!

  10. Caber1 on

    Everyone watches movies at home nowadays so this R rating means about as much the cannabis laws that supposedly protect our children.

    And just by looking at the trailers, it didn’t look like a movie that any kid I know would be interested in.

  11. Anonymous on

    The budget or the bribe must not have been large enough. Look at Transformers: Rise of the Fallen. That movie has a PG-13 rating and has a bar scene and drug scene. Sam’s mother , upon dropping him off at college, purchases a brownie with a pot leaf on the bag and her son and husband both tell her not to eat it but she says ” This is my cheat day and I can have whatever I want.”

    After eating the brownie she is seen in a euphoric mood talking excitedly to some college coeds about her cute son that lives right over there and he isn’t a virgin because she was in the house when he lost his virginity and she heard the whole thing.

    Apparently it only matters how large the expected box office receipts are going to be when it comes to ratings. I definitely don’t think just because a movie has some form of cannabis in it that it should be rated “R”.