Posted on

the simpsons weed

Now you can get the top stories from The A.V. Club delivered to your inbox.

But Marge isn’t going to be working at a cannabis business come episode’s end, so the test is in what conflict will eventually bring her out of the weed biz. And there, there’s one hit and one miss, although the miss is the funnier of the two, as Homer’s Otto-pleasing turn to the old school backroom weed-dealing business (although prefaced by a disclaimer that everything about to happen is now legal) sees him transforming Moe’s storeroom into a humorously observed simulacrum of every dingy, wet-bathing-suit-smelling den any self-respecting pot enthusiast recognizes only too well. Otto’s thrilled, what with Homer dressed like a “cool toddler,” unused hand weights, an exotic pet, and Lenny as “the weird friend who never acknowledges you,” sullenly playing “a (legal parody of) Goldeneye on a (legal parody of) a N64,” according to Simpsons EP Matt Selman’s Twitter.
As with most of its audience, the whole marijuana issue’s been viewed as a wry joke on The Simpsons since the start, with reactionary, draconian enforcement contrasted against mostly harmless stoners and law enforcement types who are only too ready to partake when nobody’s looking. Now that the legal pot business is here to stay (at least for the mostly white, upwardly mobile types who can look to cash in), that the Simpsons (family and series) would incorporate it into the sweep of shenanigans, adventures, and whatnot feels, well, organic. And the script for “Highway To Well,” credited to the always-welcome Carolyn Omine, does an admirable job of making the marijuana element (underrated dispensary name) feel right at home as just another excuse for Homer and Marge’s differences to bubble to the surface, rather than reeking with “very special episode” staleness or sensationalism. As things turn out, legalized pot is just another new development in American society that reveals the characters, in a more or less satisfying manner.

In the past, The Simpsons’ weed jokes have largely centered on Otto, Springfield’s most stoned school bus driver, so it’s natural he’d show up as catalyst for a second-act plot twist here. Once Marge innocently lucks her way into a sales job at Drederick Tatum’s post-boxing cannabinoid empire, thanks to her wholesome probity providing a reassuring face to the shiny, Apple store-esque Well+Good store, Springfield becomes so weed-friendly that Otto’s buzz is seriously harshed. Mumbling his way through an attempted Well+Good purchase with beaming store manager Desmond (a crisply funny Billy Porter), Otto’s usual allusive asides and winks are greeted with more tinctures, lotions, edibles, and other shiny cannabis products than he could have ever dreamed of, although he finds himself turned off when his talk of the cops sees Springfield PD officer Eddie making his own recommendations.
Still, after a talk around the Simpsons’ dinner table, Marge decides to go back to the job, a decision presented as considered, adult, and even laudable, which is probably why the episode got that network warning more than any old stoner gags. The central parental dilemma is neatly summed up in Homer’s turn-on-a-dime encouragement/admonition, when he tells the departing Marge, “Now go sell that safe, legal drug our kids should never ever use!” As far as a TV institution like The Simpsons taking a stand on marijuana, pointing out that Marge’s new job (“legal in this state” is said several times for emphasis) is compared reasonably to her working in a liquor store is a similarly rational paradigm shift. Later, Moe—bummed about the rise of pot over his favored legal and lucrative intoxicant—bemoans the old days before these “tie-dyed bong-monkeys,” when people just drank themselves into dangerously needless fistfights, which doubles down on the joke.
For Marge, the aching, hidden need to feel valued and special is a defining trait. As much as her Homey loves her, he’s terrible at showing his wife those things, except in the sort of grand, often deeply irresponsible gesture that defuses an episode’s marital conflict. At Well+Good, Drederick, Desmond, and pink-haired saleswoman Lauren (Chelsea Peretti) are all using Marge for her guileless suburban sheen on their burgeoning business, but they also seem to like and respect her, and she gradually comes to see how her distribution of mood-altering gummies and $30 bottles of CBD soda make her customers’ lives a little better. (Even Mrs. Skinner returns happily praising son Seymour for being a big deal principal, which is the episode’s most convincing case for legalization and widespread use.) The problem for Marge is that, at first, she doesn’t know what she’s been selling, which is problematic on any number of levels. (Not a good look for the Well+Good staff, in that Marge is unwittingly handing out a sense-altering drug to people who also don’t know what they’re taking.)
Instead, there’s a cheese-balls sting as the culmination of the “drug war” Bart and Lisa term their parents’ dueling pot business squabble, with Homer left on the hook for a $25 fine. Of course, betrayal is a bigger penalty, with Marge’s late attempt to warm Homer about the sting still seeing Homer (having made his way past security by claiming to be other guest voice Kevin Smith’s dad) turning up drunk at Marge’s big opening. (Thus shocking the gathered, vaping celebs in attendance. See Selman again for hints—apart from Rainer Wolfcastle and McConaughey, I’m lost.) Homer’s right to feel hurt—not to come down on Homer’s side too hard, but him doing something independent of Marge that he couldn’t have imagined would hurt her new career is pretty low on the list of horrible Homer-isms. Still, it’s narratively fitting but pretty harsh for the drunk Homer to lash out with the one piece of information that will completely tank his wife’s career—Marge has never tried marijuana. (Here, having scoured my thirty years of Simpsons memories, I bow to the commentariat on whether that’s canon.)
Narratively, the couple’s final clash is handled with complicated but understandable motivations. Homer’s seedy side-hustle costs Marge her ability to project the squeaky-clean image Tatum needs to front his expanded, celebrity cannabis spa expansion, so she accepts an offer to rat Homer out—to the health department, for serving food while running a legal business. It’s a sly way to at least nod toward thew backdoor ways legislators and law enforcement have chosen to come after legal things they don’t like (cough—abortion—cough), although, like the completely unmentioned issue of the many, many, mostly non-white pot offenders still in prison, the episode doesn’t really delve into the politics.

“Your no-frills, fumbling sales pitch has won me over.”

“Your no-frills, fumbling sales pitch has won me over.”

WIth more than 30 seasons under their belt, it should come as no surprise that this isn’t The Simpsons’ first foray into weed. In addition to Otto’s perma-stoned personality, a season 13 episode in 2002 saw Homer get a medical marijuana prescription for an eye injury. Unfortunately, though, it appears that the new “Well+Good” plotline was just a one-episode arch, leaving us to assume that weed won’t come back to Springfield for another 15 or so seasons.

When legal weed comes to Springfield, you better believe America’s favorite cartoon family is selling eighths and ounces — all while poking fun at the real cannabis industry along the way.
Of course, like any couple working at opposite ends of the same industry, Homer and Marge eventually butt heads over their ideological differences regarding health, wellness, and heady culture in the new world of weed. Or, as Bart puts it, “Mom and dad are having a drug war.”

Like episodes of South Park before it, The Simpsons’ foray into legal weed was rife with real-world mockery. Starting with familiar targets Med Men and Mike Tyson’s “Tyson Ranch,” Marge’s new employer is a jumbled mix of corporate cannabis figures. “Well+Good” is constantly confused for an Apple store and is run by a face-tattooed retired boxer who’s aiming to build a cannabis-themed resort and spa.
If you’re like us, and the millions of others around the globe doing your part to stay inside and self-isolate, you’ve probably watched more TV than normal these past couple weeks. Thankfully, the writers of The Simpsons premiered a new episode that’s perfect for us couch-locked in quarantine.
But after longtime stoner Otto the busdriver has a suspiciously professional experience at the polished dispensary, Homer and Moe devise a plan to welcome old school weed users with a different sort of pot shop. In the back of Moe’s bar, they replace tablet menus and futuristic products with stained couches, tie-dye, and bags of shake in order to appeal to OG potheads who are nostalgic for weed sold with stems and seeds.
The latest episode in the 31st season of The Simpsons, titled “Highway to Well,” imagines a world in which legal weed has recently arrived in Springfield, and our favorite couple attempts to cash in. Before realizing what the hip, sleek “Well+Good” dispensary really sells, Marge locks down a gig as a budtender, hawking THC gummies, tinctures, blowtorches, and vape pens to a who’s who of Springfield tokers.
When legal weed comes to Springfield, you better believe America’s favorite cartoon family is selling eighths and ounces — all while poking fun at the real cannabis industry along the way.

So if you’re looking to kill some time in quarantine, fire up your favorite strain (maybe some Do Si D’oh!) and streaming service to see how The Simpsons embrace the modern world of marijuana.

When legal weed comes to Springfield, you better believe America’s favorite cartoon family is selling eighths and ounces — all while poking fun at the real cannabis industry along the way.