Pubdate: Mon, 08 Aug 2005
Source: New York Sun, The (NY)
Copyright: 2005 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC.
Author: Meghan Clyne
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Despite earning a largely enthusiastic response from TV critics, a new show 
about a pot-selling suburban mother is provoking outrage among the public 
and generating concern among anti-drug organizations worried that the 
comedy makes light of a harmful and illegal activity.

"Weeds," which premiered last night on Showtime Networks, narrates the 
story of Nancy Botwin, a widow in suburban California who turns to 
purveying marijuana to provide for her two children after the sudden death 
of her husband. Showtime, a premium cable network, is a wholly owned 
subsidiary of Viacom, a publicly traded entertainment conglomerate.

In most states, including New York, the sale of marijuana can be a felony 

When Viacom announced in December that it was acquiring "Weeds" from Lions 
Gate Entertainment for a 10-episode commitment, the president of 
entertainment for Showtime Networks, Robert Greenblatt, said in a 
statement: "We believe that this comedy has the kind of wit and edge that 
audiences are clamoring for." Some responses from the public and anti-drug 
community yesterday, however, were less than enthusiastic.

Viewers weighing in on Showtime's online public discussion forums, for 
example, denounced "Weeds" and urged others to "boycott this stupid show." 
Participants claiming to be parents expressed concern about the comedy's 
corrupting influence on children and its promotion of an illegal activity.

Some of their concerns were echoed yesterday by a spokeswoman for the White 
House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, Jennifer deVallance.

"We think that any time people are making light of substance abuse, that it 
is not appropriate," Ms. deVallance said, adding that more than 7 million 
Americans are under treatment for substance abuse, and 15 million Americans 
are regular users of marijuana.

While some of the show's advocates - and proponents of legalizing cannabis 
- - have argued the relative harmlessness of the drug, Ms. deVallance 
expressed concern that this defense of "Weeds" was based on an outdated 
premise and understanding of marijuana.

"It's essentially a different drug than it was when I was growing up," she 
said. Whereas marijuana sold in the 1970s and 1980s contained around 1% 
tetrahydrocannabinol - the active ingredient in cannabis, commonly referred 
to as THC - the percentage in contemporary marijuana is closer to 7% or 8%, 
Ms. deVallance said. Some high-potency varieties on the market, she added, 
contained around 20% to 30% THC.

More is now known of the effects of the agent, and studies have shown 
marijuana usage to be linked to schizophrenia and suicidal impulses, and 
that the increased concentration of THC has led to higher rates of 
dependency, Ms. deVallance said.

A spokeswoman for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Meghan 
Gutierrez, said a particular concern about the impact of "Weeds" is its 
influence on young audiences. Since 1998, she said, teenagers have become 
less likely to use marijuana or to exhibit positive attitudes toward it, 
and she worried that "trendsetting" shows like "Weeds" might reverse the 

Ms. Gutierrez encouraged parents to use the series as a "teachable moment." 
Seizing the hype over "Weeds" as an excuse to talk with children about the 
harms of marijuana, she said, was the best response to the show.

In New York, however, the chairman of the New York State Conservative 
Party, Michael Long, urged a more proactive response to the program, which 
he labeled "irresponsible" and "a sad commentary on society" with standards 
that "have run amok."

New Yorkers should find out which companies are supporting "Weeds," refuse 
to buy their products, and make the companies aware of the boycott, Mr. 
Long said.

The first episode of "Weeds," which stars Mary Louise Parker and is written 
and produced by Jenji Kohan - also a writer for "Sex and the City" and 
"Friends" - will air again tonight, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00 p.m.
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MAP posted-by: Beth