Upcoming ‘Nova’ doc builds on a decade of marijuana research

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Nova has been a fixture on public television for nearly a half-century but, as recently as 10 years ago, it could not have presented The Cannabis Question, an episode that premieres Sept. 29.

“We definitely know a lot more now than we did 10 years ago in a number of ways,” Dr. Yasmin Hurd, a neuroscientist and addiction expert, told TV critics Thursday on the third and final day of the PBS portion of the annual summer Television Critics Association press tour.

The Nova episode looks at research related to marijuana as well as marijuana’s changing status in the legal system. The impact of cannabis on the brain had not been studied to such an extent a decade ago, Hurd said.

“This is very different than the show that would have been on 10 years ago,” she said.

Over the last decade, the legal status of marijuana has become a hodgepodge of regulations that vary greatly from one state to the next.

“It’s amazing to me with the patchwork of laws that we have that someone can legally buy medical cannabis in one state and end up spending time in prison for having the same cannabis in another state,” said Sarah Holt, who wrote, produced and directed the episode.

This lack of a uniform approach across the country explains why the cannabis that is sold in regulated stores is likely not safer than what is available on the black market. “It falls through the cracks of federal regulation,” said Catherine Jacobson, another neuroscientist featured on the show. “The states do not have the expertise or resources to regulate it.”

Rita Moreno reflects on ‘depressing times’

In an earlier session, Rita Moreno, the subject of an American Masters episode that airs Oct. 5, told TV critics that much of her career was spent playing or declining stereotypical roles even after she won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her work in the film West Side Story.

“I couldn’t get a job,” she said. “It was one of the most depressing times of my life.”

She settled for some roles she didn’t like, said Moreno, who turns 90 in December. “I accepted them because I thought that’s how it was. I just wanted to be a movie star,” Moreno said. It wasn’t until years later that she wondered, “Why do I always have to speak with an accent? Why do I always have to have dark, dark makeup, which is not my skin color? Why am I letting these people tell me who I am?”

She had no mentors to help guide her with career decisions, which turned out to be a mixed blessing. “If I had suddenly decided to quit and get some self-respect in the movies, I wouldn’t have done a movie again,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that during the discussion, Yasmin Hurd said that the impact of cannabis on the brain had not been studied a decade ago. Hurd said that CBD and the effect of exogenous cannabinoids on the brain “was not really studied ten years ago.” 

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