Fiction mirrors reality, as South Park’s Tegridy Farms fights to ban home growing marijuana with dispensary chain MedMen in its latest episode.
You would think writing 23 seasons of South Park episodes could cause creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to lose their fastball. But its season 23 premiere, “Mexican Joker”, showed that not to be the case. One of the biggest American marijuana companies probably wishes otherwise.
That’s because in its season premiere on Comedy Central, South Park squarely aimed its punchlines at dispensary chain MedMen, lambasting the company’s allegedly shady business practices and political maneuvers. The episode continues the plot around Randy Marsh’s Tegridy Farms, a weed-growing operation Randy started to live a simpler life away from big-city problems like school shootings.
But in “Mexican Joker,” Randy has been seduced by the big profits in legal marijuana. He expands his operations to cover all of 420 Valley—an actual Colorado valley full of legal marijuana operations. When Randy learns his former South Park neighbors, now customers, have started growing their own cannabis plants, he becomes incensed. Randy claims these neighbors stole his idea. Their actions will negatively impact his children’s life, just not how you might expect.
“While you assholes were out screwing around, I went out and made a living!” Randy yells. “When you grow your own pot, you’re taking weed out of my children’s mouths!”
Stan, at the behest of his father Randy, petitions South Park City Council to ban home-growing in the town. “As the son of a proud American farmer, I’m concerned about what homegrow can lead to. People can grow weed wrong and poison themselves…wait, what?” Stan says, realizing how foolish the stance is.
As preposterous as Stan’s words sound—”Unscrupulous growers could use cheap irrigation and drown babies,” Stan says, clearly reading a statement prepared by Randy—it somewhat mirrors real life. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to legalize marijuana in New York, a bid that ultimately fell short, included a ban of home-growing cultivation. Cuomo got the idea from big marijuana corporations like MedMen, who advised the state on legalization and regulation strategies, including a section on “The Fallacy of Home Grow.” The corporations claimed home growing would sustain the black market, undermine law enforcement as well as public health, and cut into New York’s tax revenue.
South Park makes its criticisms literal when fictional executives claiming to represent “billion-dollar marijuana company” MedMen show up at Tegridy Farms. They heard of Randy’s push to ban home growing and want to help, while also protecting their financial interests at heart. “You seem to be fighting the same fight we are,” one MedMen exec states. The group shares a joint and laments all the drowning babies caused by home growers. Eventually, Randy gets down to brass tacks.
“So you guys want to team up and piggyback on the goodwill of the legalization movement for some good old-fashioned crony capitalism?” he says. “I’m totally in.”
Randy goes on to destroy all the home grows of South Park residents and watches his profits once again rise. Along the way he experiences existential crisis and pushback from his allies. “Weed isn’t supposed to be some money-grubbing business model,” Towelie says. “It’s a gift from God and not something to be exploited by some stupid towel.” (Randy is a stupid towel, according to Towelie; this is still South Park after all.) The episode ends with Randy, in a Godfather-like speech, boasting the spoils of his bounty.
This isn’t the first time South Park lampooned MedMen either. Earlier this year, the dispensary chain teamed up with director Spike Jonze and actor/activist Jesse Williams to produce a social justice campaign titled “The New Normal.” The commercial detailed America’s history of marijuana, and how its prohibition disproportionately harms lives, especially for communities of color. However, South Park’s parody of the commercial flips the script on MedMen.
“Our country did lose its way and begin a War on Drugs that was and still is just a war on people,” Randy narrates in the parody. “And then a bunch of young corporate banker types come along telling us we’re all in the ‘new normal,’ as they try to turn god’s green miracle into an easy buck for themselves.”
We can’t help but ask: How did Randy lose his tegridy along the way? If the season premiere is any indication, we’re sure we’ll find out—and the jokes on corporate cannabis will keep coming.