We all know that “the man” has been trying to demonize cannabis for pretty much the entire span of the twentieth century, and thank God those days are practically over. However, there is one particular artifact of the twentieth century that we can almost look back on with affection.
I’m talking about anti-marijuana commercials and PSAs. When you look back on them, it becomes painfully apparent just how weird they were. I mean, there really isn’t a destructive drug in the world that could fuck you up enough to write, direct, or star in some of these things. In fact, a few of them are enough to make you want to start doing hard drugs immediately, and never turn on a TV again.
You can obviously go on your own journey of discovery, and check out these videos on YouTube (and we strongly suggest that you do that), but the Buzzlync team thought we’d highlight some of our favourites for you. That’s just the kind of people we are, you see. We live to give.
Let’s start in the 1950s, the age of rock n’ roll, soda fountains, classic cars, and gargling broken glass because you’ve smoked a joint several weeks before. Confused? OK, maybe you should watch the video, then we’ll carry on.
As you can see, Marty’s youth has been completely decimated by “marijuana cigarettes”. After all, we’re told that “Youth is a time for ice cream cones and chocolate sodas … for getting a job and finding one’s place in the world.” Shit. And there I was, thinking that all those hours playing “Street Fighter 2” was a productive use of time.
As you’ve seen, Marty’s main issue when his buddy offers him heroin is whether it will make him sick “like the reefers did”, at which point we flashback to Marty and friends, gathered around an oil drum (for some reason) with a variety of candles placed on top, making their smoke circle look more like a Satanic christening.
Also, we’ve mentioned the “drinking from broken bottles” scene, but can somebody tell me why they’re wandering around the streets with an entire crate full of “pop bottles”? Who does that? Luckily, Marty gets off lightly, with a badly cut mouth … but poor Stan goes to the hospital for swallowing broken glass. Mind you, I’m not being insensitive or anything, but you get the feeling that Stan would have done that even if he was stone cold sober. Stan’s clearly a bit of a dick.
In the next scene, Marty’s “hooked, completely dependent on heroin” and let’s be honest, whether you like Marty or not, that’s a traumatic day. A Satanic smoking sesh, followed by glass gargling, followed by heroin addiction. He even loses interest in tossing his baseball up and down, which, as everyone knows, is a sure sign of a smack-addict.
Let’s move on to the 1960s now, the late 1960s, when marijuana had become ever so slightly popular with a large part of the nation’s youth. Once again, this PSA from the American Medical Association is trying its best to warn flower-power inspired youngsters about from the evils of our favourite plant. However, there’s one major problem here. If you’re trying to scare off fans of psychedelic music, then it’s probably not a great idea to make your PSA look like The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”.
Have a look …
By the way, according to this video, apparently smoking marijuana is “as much a part of growing up as smoking corn silk behind the back fence”. What? Does anyone have any idea what this guy’s talking about? What the hell is corn silk? Is this being narrated by a character from a Mark Twain novel? Oh, and did you notice how he was subtly implying that marijuana is not safer than alcohol? Well, fuck this guy. Get back on your raft, Huckleberry Finn, and fuck off down the Mississippi!
Deep breaths, deep breaths …
(Why isn’t my god-damn “Calm” app working properly?)
Anyway, here’s a commercial from the 90s, designed to give parents an idea of what their thirteen-year-old kid’s day can be like. Nightmarish or utopian? You decide …
Now, look, we’re Buzzlync. You know exactly which side of the argument we fall down on, but is it just us, or does this commercial seem like an example of just how beautiful the world could be? Just imagine it. Your fellow soccer Moms saying: “Hey, Ellen. Wanna hit?” Your Mother asking if you want to smoke a joint while clothes shopping, your local takeaway asking if you want some of the “great Thai stick” he’s got in the back, the greengrocer, the florist … Jesus H Christ, what wouldn’t we give to live in a society like that?
And by the way, guys, the cheery south American musical vibe that’s going on during the commercial? It really doesn’t make things seem any more sinister. If anything, it makes us want to chill out, get high, and imagine a world where your beautiful commercial might be possible.
On the other hand, if you do want to travel down the road of the truly sinister, we’ve got a couple of videos that definitely lean in that direction. You may not think this first one is too unsettling, but just watch it, and then we’ll talk.
This is clearly designed to pull on our heartstrings, and to make “Lyndsey” feel guilty that her best doggy friend misses the way things used to be before she started smoking pot. But let me ask you this: If you were thinking about quitting smoking, would you be doing it because your dog was feeling neglected …. or because your dog was fucking talking to you?!
I rest my case.
The dog idea isn’t truly original, however, because this little gem got there before it. Do you remember how I promised you something truly unsettling? Well, get a load of this horrific sack of nightmare-shit …
The difference in commercials and PSAs from the 50s to now is quite stark. Far from swallowing glass, doing heroin, and dropping that all-important baseball, the more modern varieties tend to focus on marijuana making you lethargic, or as we prefer to think of it, “chilled out”.
On that note, let me introduce you to “Flat Sarah” …
Frankly, I think Sarah’s “friend” is being a bit too judgemental in this commercial. “This is the way she’s been since she started smoking pot. She’s all lazy … and boring …” Yeah? Well, maybe you’d be lazy and boring if all of your bones and internal organs suddenly disappeared. Do you ever think about that? No, you only ever think about yourself.
Also, if weed did have that effect, then Weight Watchers clubs would be lobbying for legalization across the entire country.
Oh, and there’s an Australian spin-off of Flat Sarah called “Stoner Sloth”. Check him out …
Isn’t he cute? Isn’t he funny? Isn’t he adorable? Isn’t he just a bit … fucking cool? Well, yes, which is exactly why he backfired. Generally, stoners loved stoner sloth, and he went viral for all the wrong reasons. He was parodied on YouTube, mocked on social media, and basically ended up not being worth a penny of the $500,000 the advertising firm were paid by Australia taxpayers.
So, yes, it’s definitely a good thing that we don’t have these things clogging up our TV viewing schedules anymore, but it’s good that we’ve got YouTube to look back on them. And isn’t the fact that none of these can be made today without looking ridiculous such a beautiful thing? After all, he who ignores history is doomed to repeat it, and it’s only by being fully aware of how ball-achingly ludicrous they were, that we can avoid getting to that place of maximum stupidity again.