TLBTV: CannaTalk – Jack Webb (Joe Friday) Talks the Evils of Marijuana!

The History of Cannabis in America Series

Editors Note: As CannaSense continues its growth in a climate that is getting increasingly cannabis friendly, we are diligently working to provide this collective and those seeking answers with an experience unmatched in this budding industry. Please bear with us as we complete our tasks and make CannaSense available to everyone with a need, and a wish to treat their bodies as they see fit. In line with this we would like to replay one of our favorite past CannaTalk episodes for your enjoyment, if you have not seen this timeless episode (first aired well over a year ago when the collective was basically closed down), it is one of our favorite original shows – CannaSense Total Wellness Leadership Team.

CannaTalk – Jack Webb (Joe Friday), Tough Talking Marijuana! – The History of Cannabis in America


By TLB Contributing Author & Show Narrator: Eleanor Cooney

What’s equal parts hilarious and tragic? I can think of a lot of things, but Jack Webb as Joe Friday in coat and tie delivering a righteous lecture to a zonked-out hipster on the evils of marijuana is right up there at the top of the list. It’s from a 1968 episode of “Dragnet” called “The Big Prophet.”

Don’t put a whole lot of credibility in the title of this video (tag “Great Speech”) by today’s thoughts or understanding. This is the false (propagandized) mindset of most Americans four decades ago …

This is vintage Webb, who didn’t so much play a cop on TV but stepped directly into his own alter-ego persona. The opinions expressed by Joe are Jack’s all the way, and the vehemence of his delivery plus the exquisite, dripping contempt he heaps on the nodding-out, sleepy-eyed dopester show us the special hatred he had in his heart for marijuana. You just can’t fake that sort of passion. What’s peculiar is that Jack Webb himself was a jazz aficionado, and most of us know that jazz and reefer were intertwined historically like coffee and cream. So where he got his animus for pot we’ll never know, and no doubt there’s an interesting story buried in there.

Wherever he got it, it’s on full display here. Even more important than his contempt for pot is his casual, reflexive defense of alcohol. This is a crucial divide, and is key to understanding the enduring and entirely unreasonable prejudice against cannabis even as we sanctify alcohol, despite our full knowledge of the latter’s destructive power to lay waste and destroy lives. Don’t get me wrong; I’m no teetotaler. My Irish ancestors have been known to line up and clamor for a drink, and sometimes I give it to them. But I know what alcohol is—a powerful central nervous system depressant which, if you consume enough of it fast enough in one sitting will kill you acutely—like those poor frat kids we hear about every year or so—or, if you consume enough of it at the right pace over the years, will take you down gradually and hideously. The pleasant buzz you get from that one beer or glass of wine or shot of whiskey is your body just slightly poisoned.

The only way to grasp the stunning illogic of societal tolerance of booze and the simultaneous demonization of cannabis is to think of it in terms of extreme tribalism. Tribalism requires blind loyalty to the point of blind faith, and blind faith transforms harsh and inconvenient facts into socially acceptable collateral damage. Alcohol is very much the sacramental fluid of the “establishment,” whereas cannabis is the wild, witchy Dionysian element that threatens that order and hierarchy. Why? Because its production cannot be controlled, it literally grows like a weed, and the balm to body and spirit it provides also cannot be controlled as it steps outside of the usual chain of effect and penance. Think of it: you can get blind drunk on Tuesday night, wake up with a brutal hangover on Wednesday morning, and no one’s going to test your pee to stop you from performing brain surgery, driving a school bus or flying an airplane.

In this bit, Jack’s making a case for the fabled “gateway” effect of cannabis, which we all know is hooey. It’s the old “cannabis leads to heroin” jive. “Everyone who uses heroin used cannabis first,” they’ll tell you. Never mind that this is hardly an established fact; it’s a perfect example of a logical fallacy. If you were to solemnly state that 99% of beer drinkers drank milk first, you’d be right, but nobody would think one led to the other. At least, no one thinking clearly and without pre-installed prejudice.

In this clip, though, Jack takes the “gateway” argument into unexpected sideways territory. In his mind, the progression goes like this, and I quote: “I’ll tell ya what I know. I know that in fact too many kids that begin with pot end up with heroin, then on to LSD.” Say WHAT? We’re going from pot to heroin and THEN to LSD?? That’s one I’ve never heard before. But wait, it gets better. “I know that if you drink you suffer a loss of judgment, if you drink to excess,” he says dismissively, “but I also know that judgment returns when you sober up.” Here’s Jack, the apologist for the establishment, skipping generously and lightfootedly over the detriments of booze. You can just about hear the ice cubes clink in his bourbon glass as he speaks. He goes on with great faux authority about the dangers of LSD: “People who haven’t had a dose in weeks sail out on another trip,” he declares. “They never know when. The minute they drop one acid capsule or ingest it in any way they’ve bought the farm.” He rails for a little while longer about judgment and how you might as well be dead without it, when the stoned guy rouses himself from his stupor and speaks his crucial line (and it’s some fabulously bad acting, to boot): “We were talking about marijuana,” he says, his short-term memory apparently unimpaired.

“We still are,” Jack snarls. And then he delivers the goofy, head-scratching coup de grace: “Marijuana is the flame,” he says. “Heroin is the fuse. LSD is the bomb. So don’t you try to equate liquor with marijuana, Mister. Not with me. You may sell that jazz to another pot-head, but not to me.” He sneeringly berates the hippy a little longer, then ends with this priceless, deathless line, delivered as only Jack Webb could deliver it, that surely had many a bong-user rolling on the floor laughing helplessly:

“Don’t you con me with your mind-expansion slop!”

Camp, fun, ridiculous, ludicrous, yes—but powerful, insidious propaganda that contributed hugely to the struggle we are engaged in all these decades later to undo the lies about cannabis. There’s an entire other episode about a pair of pot-using parents whose toddler drowns in the bathtub. Now, fun is fun, but that’s taking it a bit far, Jack.

Don’t you con me with your mind-contraction slop!


Watch this great presentation …


About the Author/Narrator: Eleanor Cooney is a writer and a connoisseur of the absurd, the macabre, the bizarre and subterfuge, but chokes up over “brave dog” stories. She wrote three novels set in T’ang Dynasty China. Her nonfiction memoir DEATH IN SLOW MOTION was published by HarperCollins in 2004. She recently completed a novel called THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, a sly, dark, eclectic thriller for literate readers.



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