Reflecting on Disjointed: Kathy Bates’ Marijuana Themed Sitcom

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Smallz + Raskind

Kathy Bates’ promotional photo for Disjointed (Smallz + Raskind, Netflix)

Seth Diaz, Arts & Entertainment Editor

During one of my recent Netflix binge sessions, I stumbled upon a show I remember watching a few years ago, but quickly forgot about as I moved on to other series. A little-known Netflix original told the story of the daily inner workings of a marijuana dispensary owned by an older woman and her son. The series, titled Disjointed, was something that most critics brushed off as just another cheap sitcom. But upon my binge of the series, I started to take note of things that, in my opinion, were overlooked or simply underappreciated by critics. So let’s take a look back on the series, and really dive deep into what made it special.

As previously mentioned, Disjointed showcases the daily happenings of a dispensary, owned by a woman named Ruth, played by the one and only Kathy Bates, and co-owned by her son, Travis. The series features other wonderful characters that all have their own unique backgrounds. Jenny is an Asian American woman who dropped out of medical school, Carter is the facility’s security guard who struggles with PTSD, Pete is the dispensary’s grower, and Olivia has a romantic interest in Travis. 

Ruth represents the generation prior to the rest of those who work at the dispensary. She is part of the community that fought for the legality of Marijuana and saw the substance for its healing capabilities for both physical and mental pain. Her relationship with her son is complicated, as throughout the series, she intentionally sets him up for failure in order to “toughen him up”. While these situations are usually blown off with traditional sitcom-style jokes, their effects linger and are not forgotten by the characters. Eventually, they talk about their issues and are able to move forward together. 

The dispensary is a facility that offers alternative methods of medicine through marijuana, hence the dispensary’s name being “Ruth’s Alternative Caring”. Carter, the dispensary’s security guard, is someone who is in dire need of healing due to his PTSD that stemmed from his time serving in Iraq. In an early episode, he experiences his first high from marijuana in an attempt to tap into his past, which is coupled with a beautiful and trippy animation sequence. At the end of this sequence, he is seen crying, with his fellow coworkers by his side, supporting him as he confronts the things he blocked out of his mind for years. It is a startlingly brutal moment for a show that, at most times, doesn’t even take itself seriously. 

One of my favorite characters in the series, Jenny, also has a complicated relationship with her mother. It provides a window into the relationship that many Asian people have with their parents. Jenny is understandably frightened at the idea of her mother finding out that she dropped out of medical school and works in a dispensary. Her situation worsens when we see a flashback where Jenny’s mother warns her not to use marijuana, calling it an evil substance. While her relationship is eventually patched up in the end, she finds peace and compassion in her co-workers, who are able to motivate her to continue down her own path. 

The show also does a great job at highlighting the struggle between supporters of the substance, and those who oppose it. Douglas, the owner of the tae-kwon do studio next door, frequently hurls insults at Ruth and her coworkers, seeing them as lowlifes because of their use of the plant. Early in the series, Douglas launches a formal complaint against Ruth’s dispensary, which results in a protest led by Ruth. Doug is just one entity though, as Ruth explains that she has had to endure DEA raids, politicians like Nixon and Bush, even serving prison time. At the end of the first season, a DEA raid occurs at the dispensary. Tough it is a dramatized version of what these raids look like, it is still a window into what dispensary owners have to endure for just running their businesses. 

How the series approaches these issues is where it truly shines, as it highlights the real struggles that people who want to start marijuana businesses have to endure. The cost of an application and license can be around $10,000 in California. In order to put in for an application, a facility must already be secured. That means paying for a facility for months or even years without being able to produce any product because the application hasn’t gone through yet. Once that application goes through, there are still all the policies regarding how the plant must be tracked from seed to product. For delivery, there are specific routes that need to be taken, and any deviation can have serious consequences. Even in the presence of an accident, the delivery driver would have to drive back to the facility and adjust the entire route. The high costs and serious consequences also put the industry out of reach for those who were impacted by government programs such as the war on drugs, which were predominantly Black Americans. 

Thankfully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Companies like Nuleaf have assisted in helping fund black-owned marijuana businesses, and with more states legalizing the substance for medical and recreational use, the day where marijuana becomes federally legalized gets closer and closer every year. While there is still work to be done, the push for change is only growing. More studies are being conducted, and new uses are being found every day, from medical treatment to creating sustainable clothing. It is an extremely versatile substance that fought its way through resistance during the 20th century and is now being celebrated as a tool for everybody. So next time you sit down for your next Netflix binge, maybe give Disjointed a try. Whether you are a fan of marijuana or not, or just not of age to use it, you may still find enjoyment in this wonderful sitcom.