Will: Can somebody call me an ambulance? Because I'm in trouble. Time is moving really, really slowly, and everything is flat. I need you to call me an ambulance, or failing that, my mummy. I really want my mummy because, and I'm not being dramatic, but I think I might be dead. Is that clear? Mummy or ambulance. [two scenes later] Paramedic: [incredulously] Are you sure it was just cannabis you took?
Marijuana is one of the less potent psychoactive drugs. It causes euphoria, thirst, hunger and occasionally paranoia, and it can also cause your thought processes to become one long string of Fridge Logic and/or Fridge Brilliance moments (which may or may not be remembered once the effects wear off). It also takes a little while to get used to it—often, people doing it their first time don't feel any effects at all. Even very high doses won't cause hallucinations in 99% of the population.
You wouldn't know that from the movies, though.
Dean Bitterman or the Doting Parent is tricked or cajoled into smoking up, or more likely eating a pot brownie. Five minutes later, they're riding a unicorn through a rainbow, or arguing with the plants, or being chased by musical notes in time to the background music. Expect to hear Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" or "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane. It's almost as if they've taken a powerful hallucinogen. Yes, in their universe, marijuana is LSD.
It is worth mentioning that large doses of marijuana can produce hallucinations in some people. The array of effects experienced from any dose vary considerably from person to person. Research into this effect may be partly responsible for the myth, along with journalists that ignored how large a dose the "psychonauts" used and what counts as a hallucination to experimental psychologists. Also, even those who regularly smoke cannabis may experience unexpectedly strong effects when vaporizing it, which is a more efficient method of administration. When eating it, it can take a long time to kick in, so a common mistake is to eat too much because it seems to have little effect - only to find oneself extremely inebriated for half a day when the full effects come on. Such an overdose can cause visual and auditory hallucinations, but those are not enjoyable at all and often combined with panic attacks, nausea and so forth. Hallucinations remain unlikely, but judgement and driving will be impaired. A person who has consumed enough Marijuana to experience hallucinations is unlikely to be able to walk on two feet, let alone drive, so anyone who would have consumed it unwittingly would have called an ambulance at this point and not go on a wacky drug-fueled adventure.
May be a case of research failure, especially in older works. Seldom played straight in recent decades, but there are exceptions. Often overlaps with Scare 'Em Straight. Subtrope of G-Rated Drug.
Another cause of this trope may be that the medium lacks the ability to portray intoxication from a first-person perspective accurately while also not making the intoxication seem much less powerful than it is. There are many drugs that have subtle and/or mild visual or auditory effects, if any at all, making it very difficult to portray the severity of a high dose accurately. Maybe it helps to think of the effects as metaphors.
Continuing on this trend, often when the effects of LSD are shown, they are powerfully overstated. Even on low doses, characters will experience detailed hallucinations and Datura-esque delusions, when in reality a single tab of LSD will usually only give someone visual distortions that are readily distinguished from reality.
This page also covers the use of exaggerated or inaccurate effects in other drugs. Alcohol has a history of being portrayed as hallucinogenic; this has its own trope in Pink Elephants.
open/close all folders
This PSA If your dog is talking to you, chances are you have more than weed in your system.
Anime and Manga
Mugen in Samurai Champloo torches a field of weed, which makes the fight scene with the warrior monks who grew the crop a bit... non-euclidean.
Leigharch in the Black Lagoon anime hallucinates pretty wildly using marijuana, while driving. Averted in the manga, where his drug of choice is cocaine.
Justified in one case of Case Closed, where the marijuana that drove a manor full of society elites into a murderous frenzy is said to have been laced with something far more dangerous.
In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, smurfnip is treated like marijuana with this trope. Notably in "Smurfnip Madness", Smurfette's hallucinations while under the influence include seeing Vexy and Hackus from The Smurfs 2. Also in the story, Handy created a special pair of glasses that simulate the visual effects of being under the influence of smurfnip. In "A Haunted Christmas", Nabby eats his stash of smurfnip during a village famine and starts having Meat-O-Vision.
Films — Animated
Dumbo's drunk sequence looks like this to many modern audiences, but it's actually just Pink Elephants made literal.
Plutonium nyborg, a Fantastic Drug in the film Heavy Metal, is a powder that is ingested like cocaine by the alien pilots of the segment "So Beautiful, So Dangerous" and produces hallucinogenic effects while leaving its users in a mellow state of euphoria, as sort of a combination of marijuana and LSD.
Films — Live-Action
Reefer Madness, in which marijuana is like acid laced with speed. Not surprising given that it's an anti-marijuana propaganda piece.
This is kept in The Musicalremake, although now all exaggerations are played purely for laughs.
Half Baked uses this trope, but at least it only seems to apply to the really good shit Thurgood gets from the government lab. Semi-justified in that it is so good that other people can see your hallucinations too.
Euro Trip had the group visit Amsterdam. During a visit to the bakery, they started hallucinating wildly only to be snapped back when told by the waiter that they were eating just regular brownies.
Friday sort of touches on it; when Craig gets high, aside from the mellow feeling, fits of giggling and occasional paranoia, he also sees double and/or gets blurry trails, sounds tend to echo, and he hallucinates at least twice. He's also smoking the stuff used by a guy whose NAME is Smokey, and for good reason. In fact the only time Smokey even looks affected is in a flashback, when he smokes a joint laced with angel dust.
In the early seventies educational film Focus on LSD, marijuana and hashish are listed as psychedelic drugs along with LSD, mescaline, peyote, STP and psiliocybin.
The Room: In a scene recalling Reefer Madness, normally cool-headed Mark becomes uncharacteristically violent and belligerent after taking a couple hits from a joint, holding a supporting character against the edge of a rooftop. Fits in with the recurring theme of the film that Drugs Are Bad.
According to Doctor Wood, Modern Wizard of the Laboratory, Robert Wood (patron saint of Education Through Pyrotechnics) in his youth once tested whether it's true that cannabis is hallucinogenic when ingested—for the sake of experiment and because, well, there weren't any reports of fatal poisoning or something. It was. Most memorable scenes of this trip report "experiment summary" involved turning into a fox whose eyes were inside the mouth and being scared shitless by a two-faced doll.
As if he'd never heard of a pot brownie.
Author J.T. Edson was violently opposed to marijuana and any time it is portrayed in his novels, it is shown in a negative light. However, he also appears to have no idea of what its effects actually are, and it is portrayed as everything from a date rape drug to driving people into a beserk frenzy like PCP.
In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas the speaker at the drug conference seems to have no idea of what pot actually does. Much lampshaded by Duke and Dr. Gonzo, who are quite familiar with several different drugs.
Live Action TV
There's an episode of Frasier which parodies this—Martin eats a hash brownie, not realising what it is, realises he's stoned after a short period of time, and then starts to think he's hallucinating when he sees a video in which Eddie, the dog, appears to be speaking. The video is actually a mock-up commercial, introduced in another subplot, that overdubs Eddie with his mouth moving with Frasier's voice.
Martin spends most of his "trip" thinking he feels strange because of the cough syrup he took that morning. There is a brand of cough syrup well known for mild LSD-like effects.
In the same episode, Niles ate a normal brownie which he thought was a hash-brownie and started showing the symptoms of being stoned at once until he was made aware of the mistake, at which point he instantly "sobered-up".
Niles: I'm especially looking forward to something called the "munchies" stage. It's where one enjoys bizarre food combinations... I'm thinking of pairing this Chilean sea bass with an aggressive Zinfandel!
Parodied on Monk in the episode "Mr. Monk Visits a Farm". Monk (mistakenly) thinks he's inhaled some weed smoke when he ends up catching Jimmy Belmont in the act of destroying marijuana crops that Harvey Disher had threatened to turn him in for, and starts freaking out. Hilarity Ensues. "I'm getting the munchies! Oh God! Reefer Madness!"
That 70s Show: the scenes where Eric has to talk to his parents while high, and the wallpaper behind them is moving/swirling and his parents swap heads.
There was one episode where Leo accidentally fed his marijuana stash to his dog, who ends up having such a hallucination.
Parodied in an episode of Taxi, which features a flashback to Reverend Jim's college days, where he is a straight-arrow book-grinding nerd named James Caldwell. He gets talked into eating a marijuana-laced brownie: one bite, and his expression instantly (and hilariously) dissolves into Reverend Jim's crazed bug-eyed stare.
In Breaking Bad, Jesse sees two men in white shirts who want to talk to him about Jesus as hulking, leather-clad thugs with machetes and hand grenades after smoking methamphetamine. Possibly justified, since he could have gone a long period without sleep or began to suffer from stimulant psychosis, both meth-related issues that cause hallucinations.
Definitively justified. Meth can cause Hallucinations even without lack of sleep. Alternately, it could have just been a visual representation of meth-induced paranoia.
In Party Down, Roman eats multiple pot brownies without realizing they're laced. He curls up in the bathroom and calls for an ambulance, because he is either dead or soon will be. After the paramedics show up, the hippie fellow who baked the brownies leads Roman on a journey to meet his spirit animal and Roman writes a screenplay (on the toilet paper). The paramedics take him to the hospital, not because he's overdosing on pot, but because they've never seen anyone that high before and want to show the nurses.
And strangely enough, about 75% justified. Party Down is pretty good about portraying drugs realistically and it's specifically mentioned that Roman ingested about a tenth of an ounce of high-grade marijuana. For someone not accustomed to the effects of marijuana, eating that much certainly could make one feel as if they were going out of their mind. The other 25% is Rule of Funny.
In Community, the pill Star-Burns gives Pierce during a Halloween party has Pierce acting like he's rolling on ecstasy...then he starts hallucinating Annie making cracks about his age as talking calaveras fly around. That he was also mixing this with his regular prescriptions (of which he had lost track and was taking random doses) probably contributed.
In the Room 222 season 1 episode "Goodbye, Mr. Hip," a teacher gets in trouble because of a student prank, a fake joint filled with pencil shavings placed on his desk. The teacher tries to prove his innocence to the principal by saying "Look at my eyes! Are my pupils dilated?" Marijuana makes eyes red and puffy, but only LSD dilates the pupils.
Stand Up Comedy
During his 2002 "Live on Broadway" special, Robin Williams came down on the IOC for treating marijuana usage in athletes on the same level as steroids:
Robin: [A snowboarder tested positive for marijuana], which is kind of redundant, number one. Number two, they said marijuana was a performance-enhancing drug. (imitates "Incorrect" buzzer) Marijuana enhances many things—colors, tastes, sensations—but you are certainly not fucking empowered. If you're stoned, you're lucky if you can find your own goddamn feet! The only way it's a performance-enhancing drug is if there's a big fucking Hershey bar at the end of the run.
Played straight by Woody Allen, who describes marijuana as a "major hallucinogen," and recounts an incident where he took a puff of the wrong cigarette and ended up trying to hijack an elevator to Cuba.
One Louis C.K. story involved him overdosing on weed (as he forgot that modern weed is vastly more potent than the stuff he smoked in his teenage years), and proceeded to have a very unpleasant experience.
Inverted in Sam & Max Season 2: Moai Better Blues, where basalt is said to make Moai 'turn on, tune in and drop out' (a phrase associated with LSD). If you feed one of the Moai basalt, he claims that he's hallucinating, but otherwise just acts giggly and stoned. He also exhales stone dust in a way that looks like smoke, Sam jokingly calls him 'Cheech', and Max teases him for being a lightweight by not holding it in for more than a few seconds. Obviously this isjustifiable, though.
In Grand Theft Auto V, there is a "Freaks" mission that Michael can take on where he comes across a man trying to get marijuana legalized in San Andreas, and keeps insisting Michael, a man who typically only smokes cigars, to try his "home grown" joint. Upon reluctantly doing so, Michael suddenly goes into a bad trip where he is shooting aliens with a minigun (which is fully playable). After the trip ends Michael tells the marijuana guy to screw off and says he'll never try a joint ever again. The same thing happens to Trevor as well, only with clowns instead of aliens. Franklin however is unaffected since he's already a habitual pot smoker.
ThisShrek-based Gunshow comic, which is coincidentally (?) the 420th comic in the series.
Squigley's marijuana use in Sinfest looks like this at first, but it eventually becomes clear that he's not hallucinating that he can fly while stoned. (He describes himself as a "shaman," and his powers are effective even in Hell, though they stop working in the reality zone.)
Filthy Frank once smoked a contaminated joint (in reality, a carrot and a piece of cabbage wrapped in notebook paper) and hallucinated that a flying banana killed Pink Guy.
Averted and parodied in King of the Hill, when Hank accidentally smokes a joint ("Pretty funny lookin' cigarette.") but feels no genuine ill biological effects. Hank is so familiar with this trope that he naturally assumes that the drug has transformed him into a crazed maniac and caused him to black out (in actuality, his "blackout" was just a much-needed nap).
Homer is given medical marijuana for his eye injuries. He sees a number of Beatles-esque hallucinations, mostly everything smiling at him (including his razor) and any flowing liquid (like his blood from cutting himself shaving) as rainbows.
In another episode, Lisa becomes completely stoned and begins hallucinating smiley faces everywhere, culminating in her almost making out with an electric fan. Her drug of choice? Anti-depressants.
In Family Guy, the episode where Peter and Lois had a band. They used Marijuana as the group's muse and it doesn't take much to get them completely baked, rolling on the floor and moaning nonsense (while thinking that they were singing a great song while unicorns danced in the background). They had similar trips throughout out the episode, another of which involved them licking Chris under the hallucination that he was a sundae. Averted in the series' pot-centric episode, "420."
There's an episode where Mr. Mackey — of "Drugs Are Bad, m'kay?" fame — is finally convinced to try mari-jou-wanna. Mackey frolicked around and a few of the objects in the alley he was in changed into bright neon colors. Later, when convinced into taking LSD, his head becomes a free-floating children's balloon. Interestingly, Mr. Garrison averts this when he's seen smoking marijuana. He's simply seen mellowed out and giggling at a cartoon.
Another episode features men in town deliberately getting testicular cancer (by putting their balls in the microwave) in order to be able to legally buy marijuana from the local seller. The same episode had the local KFC restaurant shut down, resulting in all the kids going into KFC withdrawal and Cartman running a KFC ring by importing take-out from another town. Naturally, Status Quo Is God, and the marijuana store once again becomes a KFC restaurant at the end. Interestingly, the episode doesn't really show any ill effects from the drug. Instead, it's the length that the men go through in order to be able to buy it is over-the-top.
Can rarely be Truth in Television. A small minority of people actually do experience LSD-like hallucinations on marijuana.
Contaminated marijuana can also have unpredictable effects, depending on the contaminant.
Ironically, some substances sold as synthetic marijuana are more likely to cause psychosis than marijuana itself.
This cop who baked pot brownies with marijuana taken from a perp, ate half the pan, then called 911 because he thought he was dying. (For the record, it's impossible to fatally overdose on marijuana, but having a panic attack while under its effects can make you feel like you're about to die, and of course you can do stupid things under the influence that can get you killed.)