The representation of cannabis in works of fiction

Posted on December 14 2017

In fiction, cannabis is pretty common place, it has been for many a decade. Especially in American literature, where books like Jack Kerouac's On the Road all showcase the use of the substance by a variety of characters. Much of the literature in the 60’s makes at least passing reference to cannabis, even before that, poets such as Walt Whitman referenced marijuana in much of his work. Either way, cannabis has appeared many forms in the realms of fiction, whether it be in the lifestyles of the authors and general creators or in the confined lives of the characters themselves.

There are a number of examples of cannabis (or general drugs) being taken in old cartoons. Many arise from reference, allusion and allegory, such as Popeye’s use of ‘spinach’ to enhance himself possibly being a metaphor for some sort of enhancing or intoxicating substance. Others are a bit more on the nose, such as Shaggy from Scooby Doo’s constant hunger and dopeness being pinned down to merely his character, which many have seen through as an obvious reference to the stereotype of ‘the stoner’. In cartoons, much of the stoner characters are caricatures based on stereotypes, take Hermes Conrad from Futurama, for example, the Jamaican limbo champion who makes multiple references to cannabis (particularly in the later series) which is as obvious as intended. My personal favourite would have to be Jughead from Archie who appears so stoned all the time that he is incapable of opening his eyes alongside the fact that he will literally eat anything and everything.

In literature, one of my favorite examples of cannabis use is in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man wherein the titular character smokes copious amounts of pot whilst listening to Louis Armstrong at the onset of the novel, claiming that cannabis helps to tune him into the ‘low frequencies’ in Armstrong’s music.  The reference to ‘low frequencies’ is somewhat pivotal to the novel, with the Invisible Man being required to operate under the radar for much of the novel. In terms of a novel which alludes to cannabis use, In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and the other Middle Earth adventures, Gandalf the wizard is frequently seen smoking a pipe containing ‘longbottom leaf’ a type of pipeweed which is allegedly the most sort after. I will let you reach your own conclusions on that one.

Obviously, cannabis use has actually created it’s own brand of fiction in the ‘stoner movie’ wherein the majority of the plot spawns from cannabis use in some way and generally results in ensuing hilarity. Marijuana is generally quite commonplace in films, books, comics, some games and television which generally reflect society in some way, maybe it’s time for those in authority to take note and chill out.



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