Spoilers ahead for One Day At A Time Episode 5. One Day At A Time is the best at portraying how most families argue. The Netflix sitcom is unafraid to weigh multiple sides, and lets the adults learn as much from their kids as they learn from them. For example, when Penelope catches Alex vaping on One Day At A Time, their conversation about substance abuse and recreational drug use is rational, funny, and painfully honest without being preachy.
We've come a long way from "After School Specials" depicting the horrors of marijuana use. One Day At A Time's approach to Alex's teenage rebellion was, pardon the sort-of pun, mellow by comparison. It makes sense, as marijuana is increasingly being legalized across the United States and stigmas about weed and those who smoke it are changing. However, as Penelope tells Alex after she caught him vaping and hiding weed in his room, cigarettes and gambling are legal too, and partaking is not free from consequences.
Plus, Alex lied to his mom, and it's still an issue because of his age. At fifteen, he can't legally use it. As she explains to him, even though weed is less addictive than coffee and less dangerous than alcohol, his brain is still developing. And for Alex, smoking weed could have consequences far beyond his health, something white mothers don't even have to think about when they catch their kid with a little pot.
Penelope has to also remind Alex that, as a Latino, he's more at risk to be arrested for having it on him. She admits to her son that not only did she smoke pot when she was younger, she was arrested while her white friend got off with a warning when they both got caught. According to the New York Times, in New York for example, 87 percent of marijuana related arrests are of Black and/or Latino people — despite marijuana usage being roughly the same for white people as it is people of color.
"If a white kid like Dylan gets caught with a little weed," Penelope says, "he gets a cool story. You could end up in prison. Your life could be over, and mine will be too because I couldn't bear to lose you like that."
Earlier in the episode, however, Penelope's veteran support group did calm her down about her fears that Alex having a drug problem (just because she doesn't like pot doesn't mean it's the worst) and even joke that she should share her confiscated stash with them. They also talked about how medical marijuana is a safe alternative to opiates, which can be dangerously addictive once prescribed for pain management. It's frank conversations like this that make One Day At A Time so relevant instead of falling into hokey sitcom tropes.
Alex is not a stereotypical TV stoner, either, which is kind of cool to see. Just like One Day At A Time has frank discussions about sexuality, feminism, religion, and immigration that are balanced and honest — this drug storyline doesn't destroy Alex or try to scare him straight. It's more like the kind of talk you might have had with your parents when you got caught doing something you shouldn't have been doing. Just, you know, with better written jokes. One Day At A Time is still a comedy, after all.