(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 lethargy or paranoia, and it can also cause your thought processes to become one long string of Fridge Logic and/or Fridge Brilliant 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, and from one strain of the plant to another. Research into the former 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 are 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 would not go on a wacky drug-fueled adventure.
It's a matter of debate whether second-hand marijuana smoke has any real effects (sometimes referred to as a "contact high"), beyond giving some people a splitting headache and nausea from the smell. Contact highs do occasionally turn up in fiction, usually in the context of someone being exposed to pot for a long period of time in an enclosed space like a vehicle.
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. It can sometimes help 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. Examples which involve alcohol may also fall under Pink Elephants.
- This PSA. If your dog is talking to you, chances are you have more than weed in your system.
- 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 Detective Conan, 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. Mostly averted in "The New Shop In The Village", since at the time Empath as the new Smurf Village leader has legalized smurfnip, a new strain of the plant has been developed that produces only the high, without the hallucinations.
- Averted in this Emergency! fic. The station crew ate pot-laced brownies and had a realistic experience: euphoric period followed by a lethargic, calm period.
- 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.
- 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 Musical remake, although now all exaggerations are played purely for laughs.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen features something more like "marijuana is PCP": Sam's mom eats one hash brownie and goes completely insane, even assaulting a full-grown man. Granted she's just shy of a Cloudcuckoolander as it is, but still...
- Michael J. Nelson of RiffTrax riffed at this scene "This is apparently the type of pot that gets you drunk instead of high."
- Used and then Justified in Training Day, the marijuana was laced with PCP.
- Inverted in The Men Who Stare at Goats, in which a bunch of people drink water laced with high amounts of LSD, but for the most part just act like mellow, happy stoners.
- Class of Nuke 'Em High has an excuse for this—the marijuana was grown next to the nuclear power plant.
- Half Baked uses this trope, but at least it only seems to apply to the really good shit Thurgood gets from the government lab. It also 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.
- Uniquely reversed by Skidoo: The film's climax involves spiking the food supply of a prison with LSD as part of an escape plan. However, only one member of the cast or crew had actually had any experience with the drug (Groucho Marx's final film credit), and they weren't anywhere near that sequence. So, lacking any sort of direction, everyone settled for either acting drunk, or trying to compensate with volume. How they got Timothy Leary to endorse that is a mystery.
- 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, once with Big Worm's head appearing to talk to him in a cupboard. 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 psilocybin.
- In How High, smoking marijuana and smoking a dead president causes a spirit to appear and communicate.
- 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.
- The Breakfast Club: When the gang tries Bender's weed, Andy becomes very enthusiastic and starts dancing around the library, even backflipping, among other gymnastic moves. He also slams a door, breaking the glass.
- Touch of Evil treats marijuana as just about the most dangerous drug out there. Heroin gets a brief mention, sure, but it's the "reefer sticks" planted on Suzy that are seen as the real damning evidence, and when she's told some people are high on pot, she takes immediately takes it as a sign that they're dangerous. And even the criminals who deal marijuana are careful about not using it themselves, saying no one in their family "gets hooked" on the stuff.
- Dogma: After being teleported from the woods to a ritzy hotel, Jay tells Silent Bob that the weed has kicked in. Strangely enough, this trope is also subverted from an earlier scene where Loki gets high with Jay and Silent Bob and exhibits normal symptoms, those being confusion and slow thinking.
- Parodied in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, when Duke and Gonzo - both heavy drug users - sit in on a drug panel by a Know-Nothing Know-It-All. See below under Literature for more.
- 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 berserk 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.
If she smoked grass at her age, she'd have one hell of a trip!
- In Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Evelyn smokes a joint with her daughter, only to have all the potholders on the kitchen counter get up and start walking toward her.
- In the fictional Misery Lit book Go Ask Alice the protagonist tries marijuana, amongst other drugs such as heroin and ecstasy, but they all seem to give the same effect.
- There's an episode of Frasier which simultaneously averts and parodies this—Martin eats a hash brownie, not realizing what it is, realizes 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. However, he's not hallucinating: the video is actually a mock-up commercial, introduced in another subplot, which 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 began acting normally again.
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. Justified, since he could have gone for a long period without sleep or began to suffer from stimulant psychosis, both of which are meth-related issues that cause hallucinations. 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.
- In the Two and a Half Men episode "Gumby with a Pokey", Charlie finds himself with insomnia and is given prescription marijuana by his pharmacist to help him sleep. After smoking it, Charlie has disturbing visions of women he slept with in the past and sees ZZ Top in his living room.
- In the opening of an episode of House, the soon-to-be patient of the week is a priest who hears a knock at his door. When he answers, he sees a floating Jesus complete with stigmata and crown of thorns. Later in the episode Dr. Hatley chalks this up to the single highball of liquor the man consumed just before.
- According to the Decoy episode "Saturday Lost," marijuana makes you hallucinate vividly, experience such extreme time dilation that 110 mph feels like a standstill, and possibly develop temporary amnesia, all while speaking in pseudo-poetic nonsense.
Billy: The city gates close at midnight. Cinderella's the watchman. And she looks like Marilyn Monroe.
- In the Broad City episode "Wisdom Teeth," a combination of Vicodin and pot causes Abbi to hallucinate a giant version of her stuffed toy, Bingo Bronson. With Bingo's encouragement, she leaves Ilana's apartment and spends $1,487.56 at Whole Foods.
- The jazz song Have You Ever Met That Funny Reefer Man? is about a pot user who lives in Cloudcuckooland and goes around doing weird and funny things.
- 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.
- Sam Kinison tells a story about having to catch a flight but he was nervous, so he smoked a joint on the way to the airport to calm his nerves. He describes walking through the terminal as seeing visions and Aztec temples.
- 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 is justifiable, 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. Trevor is also offered a joint, and after initially refusing because weed "interferes with the speed" already in his system, has a similar trip, only with clowns instead of aliens. Franklin however is unaffected since he's already a habitual pot smoker. Somewhat averted, however, in that it is clearly indicated (by the more experienced Franklin) that the pot in question has been doctored in some fashion (but one must play the optional mission in order to find this out), as Michael can smoke pot in his house a get a more mundane high.
- This Shrek-based Gunshow comic, which is coincidentally (?) the 420th comic in the series.
- Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff: SUDDENLY WEED DREAMS.◊ poofl Considering what comic we're talking about, it was probably intentionally invoked.
- 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.
- Spike lights up a joint in the final episode of the PONY.MOV series, which turns the fight between Rainbow Dash and Discord into something from the Yellow Submarine. Since this is the only time in the series smoking marijuana does this, one can chalk it up to Rule of Funny, that Spike slipped something extra into the joint, or that Hot Diggedy Demon was parodying this trope.
- 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).
- Played with in another episode that featured two typical stoner kids who run a headshop. They have a more realistic reaction to weed where they're just very relaxed and giggle a lot. However their POV gets a little "trippy" after listening to Hank talk while high.
- The Simpsons:
- 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 Clone High, raisins are like LSD... ON ACID! It's eventually revealed that this was just Extreme Advertising by Jack Black (who works for the California Raisins) trying to sell raisins to teens, and that all their insane trip-outs were all in their heads. Save for Gandhi who actually shows up in real life riding the stereotypical Australian dragon Daniel Feldspar.
- 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."
- South Park:
- 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.
- Justified in the Major Lazer episode "Bad Seed" - the stash Penny smokes was laced with acid without her knowledge. Averted in the rest of the series.
- The Littles episode "Prescription for Disaster" does this with prescription painkillers. Our main characters visit a friend's home who lives behind the walls of a little girl whose mother is addicted to the drug, causing her to feel low-energy and irritable toward her daughter, which are fairly realistic side effects. However, Dinky accidentally gets a taste of the drug and starts hallucinating as if he were on acid. Perhaps a Little would experience different side effects from humans?
- Modern psychological research is starting to paint the picture that pot, while not normally hallucinogenic for a majority of people, can cause hallucinations in people with mental disorders which already makes them prone to psychosis, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Thus, this trope can be Truth in Television for a small percentage of people, although not for particularly good reasons.
- Contaminated marijuana can also have unpredictable effects, depending on the contaminant.
- Others use marijuana in moderation because it has a calming, steadying effect for them, better than some antipsychotic drugs, or say it helps those drugs to work better, even decreasing side effects.
- Ironically, some substances sold as synthetic marijuana are more likely to cause psychosis than marijuana itself.
- Hallucinations are a possible effect of pure THC. Marijuana rarely contains THC without other cannabinoids that prevent hallucinations. Unlike portrayals in media, hallucinations from pure THC (or marijuana with very, very little CBD) are reportedly very unpleasant.
- 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, while it is believed by some to be impossible to fatally overdose on marijuana, 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.)
- In the early 1900s, absinthe was LSD. It was blamed for corrupting children and causing criminal behavior and loose morals, the usual. In reality, absinthe is no more apt to be psychedelic than any other alcoholic drink. The amount in which it was consumed, on the other hand, was often more than enough to cause the alcohol psychosis. Remember that absinthe's heyday had come after the phylloxera outbreak of 1863, which made wine (the drink of choice for most of the affected population) scarce and expensive, so absinthe has come to be used as a substitute, and was drank accordingly despite being up to seven times more potent than common wines. Even when diluted, it was usually drunk with the copious amounts of sugar that masked its extremely high alcohol content.
- Jimson weed is a powerful hallucinogenic plant that is frequently confused with cannabis.
- The placebo effect is known to work most strongly on patients' thoughts and feelings, such as pain and nausea. As such, it is possible to induce hallucinations by dosing a subject with a substance that they believe to be a hallucinogen. The effect is even more convincing if the substance has any other psychoactive effects. Thus, marijuana can cause hallucinations - but only if the subject already buys into this trope.