Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

'Grandmas Smoking Weed' Is a Hit on YouTube, but Is It Legal?

Three grandmas have gotten millions of views on YouTube by purportedly smoking weed for the first time.

Produced by Cut Video, an offshoot of the Seattle-based creative team Super Frog Saves Tokyo, the viral video features three grandmothers taking bong hits and vaping, in addition to playing Cards Against Humanity and being hilarious.

While we found the whole thing to be comic gold, we definitely had some concerns about whether the whole thing was legal.

It Includes a Legal Notice

At about 33 seconds into the video, viewers are treated to a notice that "[t]his video was recorded in Washington State where the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized." In many ways, this is true. Washington state passed its marijuana legalization law in December 2012, treating recreational marijuana much like alcohol for the purpose of state laws. The state also opened its first retail pot stores in July, allowing Washington residents and visitors to purchase recreational marijuana.

But this isn't the same thing as saying that because the video was filmed in Washington, the activity shown on the video is legal. Possession and use of any amount of marijuana is still illegal under federal law -- even in states like Colorado and Washington which have enacted pot legalization laws. Attorney General Eric Holder had announced that federal enforcement of these laws would be limited to eight specific areas (like distribution to minors).

But Holder announced his resignation back in September, so who knows what his replacement will do.

Proving the Feds' Case

Even if federal prosecutors wanted to go after the grandmas or the video crew for marijuana-related charges, there is a small level of plausible deniability. Maybe what the grandmas are smoking actually isn't marijuana. Maybe they're just actors portraying a highly nuanced scene of three seniors getting high.

As viewers, we want to believe the YouTube video is genuine -- that these three grandmas really did get high. But to meet the standard of reasonable doubt in a criminal case, you would need some evidence that the substance they were smoking really was marijuana. This typically requires:

  • Police having the substance in question, and a chemist concluding that the plant matter is marijuana; or
  • An experienced narcotics officer's testimony that the plant matter looks, feels, and smells like pot.

Without more evidence, what we really have is just a video of three grandmas getting high. And simply being high is generally not illegal.

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