‘High Times’ Hopes That ‘Abbot Elementary’ Will Be Broadcast TV’s First Weed-Friendly Sitcom

ABC’s smash-hit sitcom subtly crossed a minor milestone in the history of stoner-friendly comedy
‘High Times’ Hopes That ‘Abbot Elementary’ Will Be Broadcast TV’s First Weed-Friendly Sitcom

Quinta Brunson has made it perfectly clear that, despite the demands of deranged fans, Abbott Elementary will not attempt to end the epidemic of school shootings with a very traumatic episode. The classic cannabis counterculture magazine High Times hopes she can use her platform for a much more achievable political goal — normalizing stoned teachers.

The past 12 years have been filled with incredible successes for the marijuana activists who had devoted their lives to rolling back the archaic and destructive laws regarding the legal status of cannabis consumption and possession. When Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, it opened the floodgates for state legislatures across the country to open their red, dilated eyes to the wonders of taxable, controlled cannabis commerce, leading to 22 more states fully legalizing weed with an extra 16 allowing for medical use.

Today, in the 24 legal states, toking up is so totally normalized that it’s not uncommon for people of all age groups, demographics and professions to casually discuss their favorite brands of 1-milligram edibles or preferred pre-roll packs. And, in this season of Abbott Elementary, Philadelphia’s funniest teachers assembled to undo the hard work D.A.R.E. put in to replace reefer madness with hemp hysteria and demonize the drug when, in the episode “Smoking,” many of the main characters openly admit to marijuana usage. According to a recent article from High Times writer Andrew Ward, titled “Will Abbott Elementary Ignite Honest Weed Depictions on Network TV?,” this wasn’t just a reflection of our current times, but a “low-key historic moment in television history.” 

In the Abbott Elementary scene that’s central to the discussion, Brunson’s character Janine admits to daily marijuana usage, and her coworker Gregory talks about his favorite kind of THC edibles during a discussion in the teacher’s lounge. A passing student records the conversation on his phone and posts it to social media, and the school’s students collectively decide to roast their teachers like their teachers roast themselves.

Critically, however, Janine and Gregory’s vices aren’t painted out to be moral failings or greater threats to their well-being than those of their coworkers who vape or drink chardonnay. According to High Times, such relatively nonjudgmental depictions of normal people partaking in toking are rare in the history of sitcoms, especially from those on the “Big Four” broadcast networks of NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. With the airing of “Smoking,” ABC’s Abbott Elementary is, in Ward’s evaluation, the most pot-positive broadcast sitcom ever, beating out vaguely non-negative marijuana mentions in Community and the now-dated depiction of medical marijuana in the 2002 Simpsons episode “Weekend at Burnsie’s.”

Of course, comedy shows on cable channels and streaming platforms have long been comfortable with the chronic, as Ward pointed out that there’s maybe a combined five minutes throughout five seasons of Broad City in which neither Abbi nor Ilana are absolutely blazed. It’s just broadcast that’s slow to accept the “new normal” of weed use. As Ward writes, “The pickings have been slim on the Big 4 channels.”

“While Abbott Elementary should be celebrated for breaking through a nearly 30-year wall on network TV, we should also take a moment to wonder why it has taken so long,” Ward argued. “With network TV facing more competition than ever, wouldn’t it be wise to create shows that relate to their viewers? You’d think so, but here we are.”

Now, Brunson has to carry the weight of being the best advocate for teachers on television as well as the most realistic stoner in sitcoms. If she’s looking for stress relief from all the responsibilities she’s shouldering, High Times would probably have some ideas.


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