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Fox’s Bones Gets It Half Right on Medical Marijuana

Booth and Bones pose for a "Bones" ad before they discuss the values of medical marijuana.

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Fox’s Bones Gets It Half Right on Medical Marijuana

Everything I know about “Bones” I learned from this American Dad clip (thanks, YouTube). Warning, there: will be spoilers, but this will have little to do with drama, relationships, and contrivances that might be familiar to regular viewers.

Fortunately, the latest episode, The High in the Low seems to dovetail a supporting character’s cancer treatment with the murder of a medical marijuana patient/dispensary staffer. Forensic anthropologist, Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and FBI special agent Seely Booth (David Boreanaz) banter early and it’s clear Bones thinks medical pot is a legitimate treatment option and Booth thinks enforcing federal law is the top priority.

The crime unfolds predictably. The victim is ID’ed, leads are followed, various people are accused of the crime. All along the way, the half-legal nature of medical pot is the wedge issue, the cracked tail light that Booth holds over anyone in the industry.

When any expert of an episode’s topic watches, extra work goes into suspending disbelief. So, I tried to ignore how events unfold like dominoes, how everyone has predictable opinions, how everyone is good-looking. That got me through most of the episode. But then, to the show’s credit, it gave me two twists. One good, one bad.


First the good, Wendall, the resident cancer fighter in the office, is suspended for using cannabis. This makes most of the characters, so supportive earlier, into dicks for not remembering they all work at the federal-ish, “National Treasure” of crime labs that is the Jeffersonian Institute.

Second the bad, using cannabidiol (CBD) heavy cannabis strains as a terrible plot twist. Bones, who passionately declared, “We’re not ruled by hysteria, fueled by ignorance” when it came to medical pot access, shunts that attitude, later claiming that CBD has all the medical value in the cannabis plant.

Oversimplifying is the name of the game in procedural shows. But this blows especially hard considering the amount of CBD-only legislation being considered and people so eager to take the “marijuana” out of medical marijuana.

A nice loophole is found to get Wendall his job back without ever challenging federal laws. The bull-headed Booth finds sympathy for people who might die without cannabis, and Bones apologizes to Booth for expecting basic compassion to rise above his FBI oath.

Oh, and also Booth is officially a better FBI agent than he’s ever been. (The TV world has funny principles.) The stories are wrapped up with some public (and illegal) alcohol consumption, telling the viewers some federal laws were meant to be broken. Hooray.

“The High in the Low” is a so-so example of how TV shows handle medical marijuana; a decent example of how Hollywood dumbs-down issues down for viewers, and an excellent example of how apathy of non-pot users is the last great obstacle to federal reform.

Did you watch Fox’s Bones? Do you think they got it right on medical marijuana? Tell us in the comments below.



  1. Toki GlassBlower

    May 10, 2014 at 9:03 am

    “A nice loophole is found to get Wendall his job back without ever challenging federal laws.”

    Id like to point out this part of your story is wrong, if you own or work at a business that has a work contract with the US federal government, that contract, which Wendall would have to sign if he wanted to continue with his work, would state that illegal drug use is grounds for termination of said contract, so, Wendall would “not” be able to work in anyway shape or form for the US Government if he smoked marijuana.

    Its these little oversights that I see all the time in print concerning marijuana that get my goat, these little lies do not do the actual, legalizing of marijuana folks any help by putting “not the truth” in an article.

    • Bailey

      May 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Toki. In the universe of the show, they made him an “independent contractor” who bi-passes requirements for testing. I agree that’s probably crap.

      However, two sentences before I tell the reader “Oversimplifying is the name of the game” and later to conclude this “is a so-so example of how TV shows handle medical marijuana; a decent example of how Hollywood dumbs-down issues down for viewers” The title of this story prepares readers to expect ‘Bones’ to play fast and loose with the truth.

      I agree this story doesn’t do actual legalizing. Its a review of a TV show, so it wasn’t supposed to. There is a “little oversight” in the story, but the episode’s, not mine.

      -Bailey Hirschburg

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