In recent years, cannabis use by women in the media has been on the upswing. No longer are they relegated to bit roles and one-dimensional parts, as today’s female characters come in all walks of relatable life as they top billings. From the comedic to the gut-wrenching, both film and TV have given us stellar performances involving cannabis use. In some cases, cannabis is a central factor in the show, while in others, it gets the “a very special episode” treatment without having the cast of Saved By The Bell remind viewers that there's no hope with dope. The following are seven of the best female characters (duos in some cases) who lit up the big and small screen.
Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler, Broad City
Over the past four seasons, the canna chronicles of Abbi and Ilana (played by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer) have taken them on some fantastical journeys through New York City and a few remote locations. They’ve explored some pretty unusual destinations, like the remote North Brother Island, and tackled the all-too-real New York City pains of a humid summer with no air conditioning, dog marriages in the park and the annoyance of traveling out of town for a wedding. Yet, no episode may be more relatable than when the group headed out of state. While visiting Ilana’s family in Florida, the distressed duo gets caught lighting up. What ensues turns into a pretty ideal outcome in terms of family canna bonding.
Vanessa "Van" Keefer, Atlanta
Fans of Donald Glover's semi-surrealist Curb Your Enthusiasm for rappers know it delves into cannabis quite a bit. They’ll also know that the show does an excellent job of giving its supporting cast incredible starring roles in some episodes. In the season one episode "Value," Van gets a turn at driving the show. Unfortunately, this is Atlanta. Gut punches were bound to come her way. Smoking a little reconciliation cannabis with her part-time friend/part-time enemy turns into a painful issue for Van. It would be hilarious if the career and life implications weren’t all too true for many viewers. Actress Zazie Beetz does an incredible job of portraying Van’s resolve despite constant setbacks throughout the show, leaving a significant impression throughout the series. "Value" may be the best example to date.
Stephanie Squires, The Wackness
The Wackness is an underrated indie gem about slinging cannabis from an ice cream truck in the summer of 1994. It tells the story of Luke, a recent high school graduate who trades cannabis for therapy sessions. When summer drives his friends out of town, he’s left to connect with Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), a way-out-of-his-league girl from his class. She’s also his therapist’s daughter. That summer, Stephanie and Luke smoke scores of cannabis as they come together and eventually fall apart. At times, she may seem cold and aloof, but Stephanie is wiser than her age—and Luke. Far more than just a young and attractive cutout stoner, Stephanie is a nuanced character caught in a city that tends to cause great internal conflict in just about everyone.
Kristina Braverman, Parenthood
The 2010 version of Parenthood was a multi-generational family drama that knew how to make tears flow. No episodes were more trying than when Kristina (Monica Potter) battled cancer. The episodes show the real brutality of the disease, as Kristina is debilitated to the point of being barely able to function. In the season four episode One More Weekend With You, the pain comes to a head, and Kristina's husband, Adam, goes on the hunt for cannabis to ease her pains. The end of the episode shows the relief that cannabis gives Kristina. For a moment, she is able to find a respite from all the hell cancer caused her.
Anne Banting, Canadian Strain
The upcoming 2019 film Canadian Strain tackles the real upcoming cannabis topic: the end of black market sales. Here, the story follows Anne (Jess Salgueiro), a dealer who's been forced out of the game thanks to Canada's progressive cannabis policies. From the movie trailer, Anne represents a wave of black market dealers pinched out by the government. She suffers from changing market demands and the appeal of strains on names alone.
Frankie Bergstein, Grace and Frankie
Comedic legends Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda are no strangers to discussing cannabis on camera. In 1980, the two made their first on-screen cannabis contribution in 9 to 5. More recently, the two (more so Tomlin) have been up to it again with cannabis in their Netflix series Grace and Frankie. For the past four seasons, the duo has done what other Netflix shows have failed to do: portraying cannabis use in real life. Tomlin plays Frankie, a hippie who consumes cannabis, while Fonda plays Grace, a retired entrepreneur who is into booze and doesn’t understand Frankie’s cannabis use. Throughout the four seasons, the duo portray cannabis as both fun and a detriment in some cases, though some critics have said the cannabis knocks are a bit much in comparison to drinking and pill usage. Through a comedic lens, Grace and Frankie demonstrates how cannabis can play into senior friendships in that some embrace it while others don’t quite understand the appeal.
Nancy Botwin, Weeds
The final mention on the list belongs to the OG of this generation's female cannabis comedy content, which arguably kicked off with Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) and Weeds. Debuting in 2005, Weeds was the first show to portray cannabis outside of the stereotypes. Instead, the series followed Nancy as she has to find a way to support herself and her two sons after her husband dies. After a few seasons, Weeds did go off the rails into a bit of a fantasy world as Nancy ascended the drug world pyramid much faster than anyone likely could—somehow she went from pushing small amounts at soccer games to going across the border (underground tunnel included)—yet thanks to Weeds, television got its first taste of cannabis-themed comedy that was somewhat real. It showed a mother struggling to make ends meet, by turning to prohibited drug sales as a way to survive when there’s nothing else. Through the course of the series, Nancy’s story reflects the true stories of others who are caught up in the black market due to circumstances beyond their control.
Photo by Matt Peyton courtesy of Comedy Central.