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A Journal of Cannabis and Culture

The New Normal Behind the Scenes

The New Normal Behind the Scenes

TEXT BY: Ellie Robins PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Samuel Trotter

This February, MedMen made history, becoming the first cannabis dispensary ever to release a TV commercial. And not just any commercial: a landmark two-minute short film, directed by Spike Jonze and starring Jesse Williams. Together, Jonze, Williams, a world-renowned crew, and MedMen tell the story of cannabis in the United States, from George Washington’s favorite crop, through years of misinformation, prohibition, and racial injustice, to the wave of legalization sweeping the country today. It’s the story of a country and a world waking up to marijuana’s power to heal, enhance life, and boost the economy. The story of the new normal.

You can catch the short film in movie theaters across California, Nevada, and Michigan, as well as on Bravo, CBS Sports Network, Oxygen, MSNBC, Lifetime, and Food Network.

Here’s how it happened.

About MedMen’s First Short

Jonze used painstakingly assembled dioramas to illuminate striking moments in the history of cannabis. Production designer James Chinlund, who honed his skills on the sets of The Avengers and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, worked round-the-clock for a month building the dioramas. “I loved finding the balance of artificiality and reality,” he observes—a balance that required him to use every tool in his toolbox, from traditional model-making and painting to augmented reality technology.

Growing up in Chicago in the 1980s, Jesse Williams saw the effects of the war on drugs firsthand. He went on to use his platform as a beloved actor to campaign for cannabis legalization—making him a natural choice to star in the “New Normal.” The short film sees him sprint through 250 years of history, from George Washington’s hemp fields through harsh drug sentencing to the new normal, where he’s a citizen free to make cannabis part of living his best life.

“I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not scared of being the first in trying new things, and speaking truth to power,” he told EMBER earlier this year. In making this historic commercial, he said, “we want to remind the American people that we’re entering the end of Prohibition; we’re taking the blindfold off and saying, ‘Look, this is not that big of a deal.’”

Award-winning costume designer Jennifer Johnson combed the costume houses and clothing archives of Los Angeles to tell the story of cannabis through clothing, with costumes spanning from the 18th century to the present day. What was the most challenging part of the shoot for the seasoned designer who’s worked with directors including Yorgos Lanthimos and Terrence Malick? George Washington’s colonial suit. “This historically correct colonial three-piece suit,” Johnson notes, “had to be custom-made with velcro seams and enough allowance in the body so that in under seven seconds … actor Jesse Williams could break out of the tailored suit to reveal his early -2000s, ‘Mom made me wear it,’ purposefully bad court suit.”

This story and many more are available in the newest issue of EMBER magazine - made with our partners, PAPER magazine. You can grab a copy at your local MedMen cannabis dispensary or at Barnes and Noble.

A Journal of Cannabis and Culture
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