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Homer and Marge deal legal weed in a Simpsons that could have gone much worse

“Your no-frills, fumbling sales pitch has won me over.”

I was momentarily taken aback by the big, bold “TV-14″ content warning before the start of tonight’s Simpsons. But, after calming myself with the thought that no, there wasn’t a rogue Family Guy episode coming, I remembered that tonight’s 2020 episode of The Simpsons was venturing out into the stormy, controversial waters of . . . the pot. More specifically, the growing national movement toward marijuana legalization and the proliferation of cannabis-related legal businesses (no longer called head shops, thank you very much), a civic transformation that has brought untold decades of generational warfare and unfruitful hyperbolic debate tactics right into the mainstream. After all, when, one year, parents are telling their kids about the dangers of smoking dope (while shifting their eyes in grudging recognition of their own youthful recreational use), and the next they’re driving past three chipper-looking dispensaries with names like “Calming Harvest” on the way to Arby’s, it’s fair game for a show like The Simpsons to see just how Marge and Homer will approach the issue.

Still: Big, scary content warning. Review rated AV-14. Proceed at your own risk.

“Highway To Well”

“Highway To Well”

Episode

In the past, The Simpsons’ weed jokes have largely centered on Otto, Springfield’s most stoned school bus driver, so it’s natural he’d show up as catalyst for a second-act plot twist here. Once Marge innocently lucks her way into a sales job at Drederick Tatum’s post-boxing cannabinoid empire, thanks to her wholesome probity providing a reassuring face to the shiny, Apple store-esque Well+Good store, Springfield becomes so weed-friendly that Otto’s buzz is seriously harshed. Mumbling his way through an attempted Well+Good purchase with beaming store manager Desmond (a crisply funny Billy Porter), Otto’s usual allusive asides and winks are greeted with more tinctures, lotions, edibles, and other shiny cannabis products than he could have ever dreamed of, although he finds himself turned off when his talk of the cops sees Springfield PD officer Eddie making his own recommendations.

As with most of its audience, the whole marijuana issue’s been viewed as a wry joke on The Simpsons since the start, with reactionary, draconian enforcement contrasted against mostly harmless stoners and law enforcement types who are only too ready to partake when nobody’s looking. Now that the legal pot business is here to stay (at least for the mostly white, upwardly mobile types who can look to cash in), that the Simpsons (family and series) would incorporate it into the sweep of shenanigans, adventures, and whatnot feels, well, organic. And the script for “Highway To Well,” credited to the always-welcome Carolyn Omine, does an admirable job of making the marijuana element (underrated dispensary name) feel right at home as just another excuse for Homer and Marge’s differences to bubble to the surface, rather than reeking with “very special episode” staleness or sensationalism. As things turn out, legalized pot is just another new development in American society that reveals the characters, in a more or less satisfying manner.

“Your no-frills, fumbling sales pitch has won me over.”