Sarah Silverman’s red-carpet pot reveal isn’t the mainstream ‘moment’ advocates are looking for

Munchies much? (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Sarah Silverman brought a vape pen filled with marijuana to the Emmys, surprising Giuliana Rancic during a red-carpet segment where celebrities show the host what’s inside their clutch purses.

“This is my pot,” the comedian told the host, “my liquid pot.”

While it’s tempting to proclaim Silverman’s very funny red-carpet moment as a major step forward for advocates of legal marijuana use, Rancic’s surprised reaction — along with the questions Silverman fielded in the press room after her Emmy win — suggest that the pro-pot crowd has a long way to go before legal marijuana is embraced by the mainstream.

When asked directly whether she was high or not, Silverman replied“I wasn’t stoned. I had pot for later in my purse. If it’s in your purse, it’s legal. I mean, I don’t drink. I like to have a puff as a treat at appropriate times.”

 Silverman gave a similar answer toTMZ, which went with the headline “SARAH SILVERMAN: YEAH I GOT HIGH after the Emmys.”

From TMZ: “People thought her [Emmys] speech was a little all over the place. But after the show, Sarah told our photog she didn’t smoke before or during the show … but planned on celebrating with it later on. Cause that’s what winners do”

California is one of more than a dozen states where medical marijuana is legal. Possession of small amounts of the drug for personal use is an infraction (basically, like a traffic violation); it carries a $100 fine.

Silverman, was clearly surprised by her win for Outstanding Writing For A Variety Special, which might explain why her acceptance speech sounded a bit off. She began her otherwise standard (for Sarah Silverman, at least) “thank yous” with “this didn’t even occur to me!” She ended it with a loose paraphrase of Bill Hicks.

Even some celebrities got into the “oh my God is that girl high?” action, prompted by Silverman’s decision to take off her shoes before heading up the stairs to accept her award:

Silverman also played up the pot thing a little bit. During that initial red carpet segment, she made the following joke about her breasts: “Yeah, they’re as low as they’ve ever been but they’re also as high as they’ll ever be from this point on.”

Silverman, it should be noted, routinely discusses pot use in her stand-up acts, probably with a mix of honesty and hyperbole. The only thing that really stands out about this particular moment is that it happened at the Emmys.

For many viewers, Silverman’s Emmys behavior was enough to not take her at her word about her sobriety. However, her insistence that the pot was for celebrating afterwards would fit with how Silverman has described her drug use in interviews where she’s just being herself:

Although there is a disparity in how drug laws are enforced that limits just how much a celebrity’s marijuana use can speak for the state of a nation, Silverman’s red-carpet moment said something about the decreasing threat of jail time for those who indulge in personal pot use.

But as long as a little bit of pot on the red carpet overshadows a major awards win, advocates are hardly having the mainstream cultural moment they’re hoping for.

Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.
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Emily Yahr · August 26, 2014