Joy of Cannabis
THe Joy of Cannabis

Fact Checking the Cannabis Subplot in Recent 'New Amsterdam' Episode

Cast members of "New Amsterdam" with Janet Montgomery, who plays Dr. Lauren Bloom, in the middle. (via NBC)

Mainstream television is ripe for propaganda, especially hospital shows. Case in point: New Amsterdam on NBC, Season 5, Episode 8. 

Among the many events happening at the New York-based hospital in this episode is the arrival of a teenage girl who's high on pot. Dr. Lauren Bloom (Janet Montgomery) tells the mother (Sarah Jes Austell) that Kearston (Ava DeMary) has "overdosed on a substance called THC." 

"THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana," she adds.

"But you can't OD on weed " April says.

"With all the different ways marijuana is consumned, it's really difficult to know what it's been laced with," Bloom explains.

"I'm the one who buys it for her," April reveals, stunning the doctor.

A few scenes later, the conversation continues.

Bloom: "You're supplying your own daughter with drugs?

Alice: "Do you have kids?

Bloom: "No, I'm not a parent, but I do know that supplying drugs to kid is usually frowned upon."

Alice offers this lenghty mea culpa: "When my daughter was 15 she came to me and said all her friends were vaping weed, trying tinctures, edibles. She wanted to try it and I said no, so she didn't. At 16, she asked again and said she wasn't asking permission, she was just wanting to be honest about it. I was afraid she'd buy off the street and it would be laced with God knows what. So I did the responsible thing: I bought her edibles, tinctures, weed from a reputable dispensary to protect her. And she's only allowed to do it at home and I oversee how much she does. This is what raising kids in 2022 is like." 

Bloom's response is right out of the government's anti-pot playbook: "Did you know that THC - the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana - used to makes up 5%? Now it makes up 95%, making it more potent, more addictive and more bioactive. Marijuana in 2022 is not the same drug as when you were a kid."

Alice: "I was just trying to do the right thing. I was trying to keep her safe."

Bloom: "Well, you know what? Buying drugs for her didn't do that."

Then Kearston disappears from her room. She apparently is part of a group of beauty pageant contestents who were hurt when a stage collapsed. In the next scene outside the hosptial, Kearston's standing on top of a car acting like she's on a runway. Kearston tumbles and falls, breaking her pelvis.

Post surgery, Bloom makes a big reveal of her own, which explains her speaking at an NA meeting at the beginning of the episode:

"Kearston is stable. We expect her to make a full recovery. I wanted to let you know that we didn't call Child Protective Services. A social worker is going to reach out to you."

"Are you kidding me? Alice asks.

Bloom goes one: "I understand that raising kids in today's environment is tough. And I guess that marijuana is everywhere and it is legal now, but here in New York, if you're under 21 it is considered a controlled substance. You said she used only in your home from the supply you provided, right? A tincture full of cannabis? A single drop can make anyone psychotic, much less a young girl. Maybe next time leave the prescribing to the doctors."

April offers disgustedly: "Sure, that's really going to stop kids from experimenting with drugs. Thanks for your help."

"Yeah, well," Bloom confides, "my mother used to get me drugs and alcohol when I was a teenager, to try to win my affection. I spent my whole life trying to dig myself out of that hole. You want to help her experiment? Help her experiment with not taking drugs. This right here," looking at Kearston, "is the alternative."

And with that ends another preachy Reefer Madness 2.0 lesson, this one courtesy of NBC.

 

Episode Fact Check

1. "It's really difficult to know what it's been laced with."

This is a common trope these days due to the fentanyl epidemic. But cannabis is not being laced with fentanyl. "In reality: America’s fentanyl-laced weed problem doesn’t exist at all," Leafly contends. Lacing flower is difficult. Unscrupulous manufacturers might add questionable ingredients to oil products that can be vaped or taken orally as a tincture or even edibles. But this is not likely. If the mother was buying products at a "reputable dispensary," where they're tested first, it shouldn't be a problem.

2. "I bought her edibles, tinctures, weed from a reputable dispensary."

Being that the show is based in New York, we know that dispensaries in New York currently only serve patients. Kearston's mom would need to be a registered patient to purchase medical cannabis products in New York. It's possible Alice went to New Jersey or Massachusetts where adult-use sales are allowed.

3. "Did you know that THC - the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana - used to makes up 5%? Now it makes up 95%, making it more potent, more addictive and more bioactive. Marijuana in 2022 is not the same drug as when you were a kid."

This is another popular trope: That today's marijuana is vastly more potent than it was in the '60s or '70s. That's true to some degree, but a 95% THC level is hardly standard these days. Some concentrates have 60%-70% THC content while it usually tops out at 25% with flower. High THC cannabis is not more addictive than low THC. 

4. "A tincture full of cannabis? A single drop can make anyone psychotic, much less a young girl."

Again, invoking the potency myth, the show buys into the idea that marijuana use can lead to psychosis. Many articles contend this is true, but it's also a leading argument among conservatives to keep cannabis illegal. Do you know anyone who has experienced psychosis after using marijuana? I don't. Plus, the idea that one drop can cause that sort of effect is ludicrous and nothing more than a scare tactic.

5. "Maybe next time leave the prescribing to the doctors."

Kearston was experimenting with marijuana, not using it medically. All cannabis use is not medical. It's also recreational, which is what Kearston was doing. It should not be up to doctors to decide who can use pot and who can't. 

 

Edibles on "The White Lotus"

There's also an edibles subplot in the latest episode of The White Lotus (Season 2, Ep. 3) on HBO and HBO Max. Daphne (Meghann Fahy) offers gummies to Harper (Aubrey Plaza) who says the last time she ate them, "I did too many and ended up on the floor in the fetal position." She gets a little spaced at one point, but nothing of great significance happens while under the influence, other than good conversation.

 

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.