newlyweeds, legalization and doing what you juana

December 23, 2013

By Anonymous, AFROPUNK Contributor 

Shaka King’s Sundance-selected film Newlyweeds, a romantic comedy that explores the functionality of a relationship when both partners are habitual pot-smokers, went to DVD, iTunes and On Demand last week. The film poses timely questions in relation to marijuana in American society, situated at a moment in which the act of smoking weed seems to be, in non-professional environments, less of an indicator of laziness, irresponsibility or immaturity than it has been in our country’s past. Rather, how one fits their habit into their everyday life has surfaced as a point of analysis.

In the film, protagonists Nina (Trae Harris) and Lyle (Amari Cheatom) find their fantasies flourishing into action before being cut short by their use of the very drug that inspires them. Soon they face legal consequences for their habit, must wrestle with jealous emotions and reevaluate the structure of their relationship.

Despite this downward stumble, one must also consider the ways in which both Nina and Lyle are productive despite their habit–a trait films depicting smokers rarely explore. Nina works as a tour guide at a museum, one to which young museum-goers are extremely responsive. Lyle works as a repo man for a rental company and, while smoking pot on the job, maintains a relatively productive lifestyle in which he can afford to both upkeep himself and his drug use. Further, one of the curators at the museum at which Nina works connects with her on their mutual habit. Lyle and Nina are for the most part a well-functioning couple before the aforementioned turn in plot. They are not irresponsible potheads.

        Pictured: Nina and Chico

Growing up in suburbia, I knew friends’ parents who smoked pot. When moving to New York City, I encountered more and more adults and young professionals who self-identified as smokers in the same way that many identify as cigarette smokers and drinkers. Similarly, this movie proposes a new interpretation of the lives of smokers–one that speaks to the incorporation of pot smoking into the productive lives of young and working New Yorkers rather than pot-smoking as a reason for their social isolation.

Again, the film does take a downward spiral because of the protagonist’s drug use, but few times before has a film based around smoking weed–not a film with drug use as an aside or tool for character development–looked so closely at the various ways in which this recreational activity may fit into the dynamic of a romantic relationship and the individual lives of the people involved. In doing so, it proposes new possibilities for conceiving of the drug’s role in American society–possibilities that break free from once prominent “gateway drug” ideologies.

With New York’s Stop and Frisk policy under scrutiny for its racist implications, the forthcoming legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and the implementation of Massachusetts’ MGL 369, an act allowing the use of medical marijuana, the socio-political climate regarding marijuana is clearly coming under scrutiny. And that a comedy has emerged that treats the use of this drug with serious consideration rather than dismissing it with typical stoner comedy antics further exemplifies this. How these changes will take shape in our society has yet to be fully realized. But it seems everyone has their guesses.