The sight of Pam St Clement aboard a Magical Mystery Bus, taking a weed-themed road trip across America, could leave you fearing that you’re somehow tripping out. Don’t panic though: You’re not high, she is. Pam has been eating marijuana-infused gnocchi with Linda Robson, in a real-life scene that will air on TV next week.
The three-part documentary ‘Gone To Pot’ sounds like it would more at home on Viceland - or at the very least a 10pm slot on Channel 5 - but it’s ITV who commissioned the series, which sees some familiar faces - the ex-‘EastEnders’ actress, Linda, John Fashanu, Christopher Biggins and Bobby George - on a voyage of discovery, learning more about the drug.
Before jetting off to California, Pam had little first-hand experience of it - “I’d smoked a bit when I was younger but nothing great… And like all good politicians of course, I didn’t inhale” - but when HuffPost UK spoke with the actress just days after she returned to the UK, she explained that the trip did succeed in changing her perceptions.
In the first episode, viewers will see the gang learn that many medical users in the US are over 55 - a factor that helped ITV decide who could be good for the show - as they visit a dispensary to learn about which products could help their various ailments.
Pam suffers from polymyalgia rheumatica, a condition that affects the joints, and is prescribed a bottle of drops for the pain and inflammation. However, when they enter federal airspace while flying from Colorado to California, the marijuana products have to be thrown in the bin, and Pam admitted she’d have liked longer to try them.
“We couldn’t make a valued judgement about it,” she said, before stating she’d “absolutely” try the drops again, if they were legal in the UK. “We met too many people who said it was beneficial to ignore it.
“There is a lobby which says, ‘No, no, no It’s dangerous’, because they see the effects of this plant on youngsters, with schizophrenia and things like that.
“Just last week, there was an article which we picked up after we got back, about cannabis causing violence. Yes, that is this wretched stuff which is grown illegally and they’ve upped and upped and upped the strength of it, with genetic modification. And you don’t know what else is going into it.
“What they’re using to grow the plant to start, they’re just throwing everything on it, and how much they’ve modified it. They’re not going to tell you because they want you hooked.”
The programme moves between the downright hilarious (think parties in San Francisco with Harry the Hippie) and the scarily real (police raids on illegal grow farms), but the the jovial and serious sides of the programme also meet on a number of occasions.
During a trip to Nonna Marijuana’s house for a three course meal, Bobby and Biggins happily shovel away bowls of marijuana-infused ice-cream. This gluttony does not come without its consequences and while the darts player throws up into a plastic bag on the bus, Biggins is guided to his room and put to bed by members of the production team.
Thankfully, this experience serves as a lesson to the pair and later in the series, a ‘Puff, Pass, Paint’ class - which is exactly what the title suggests - ends in hysterics.
“This glass thing came around... this small glass thing with a little pipe and a very big aperture at the top, and this woman was taking it round and Linda had a little puff,” Pam explained. “It came to me and I couldn’t get anything so I took another puff and the woman said, ‘Oh no, that’s enough’. Then it went round to Bobby, he took a mighty puff. Within about five or 10 minutes, Bobby and I were in hysterics.
“I was a bit insecure about my cactus painting and I’d made it into an alien eventually. This girl said to me: ‘Oh that is great. I get your concept’.
“And I’m looking at her, and all these others are looking at these young Americans as though they’re absolutely barking.”
Sadly, the gang did not sit up all night watching cartoons and eating Doritos, as Pam concluded: “We all slept the sleep of the innocent that night.”
It is admittedly odd to hear Pat Butcher talk about weed - especially when she uses a very matter-of-fact tone to say things like, “Indica is the one that takes you down, rather than sativa which gives you energy” - but this is exactly the point.
Pam hopes the unexpected band of travellers means viewers will be more likely to stop and listen to the points being made. This, paired with the primetime slot, means there’s every chance that will happen.
“I hope that people will actually get a better idea of the argument and the pros and cons, than they would if they were watching ‘Panorama’,” she said. “Because I think we’ll get more viewers. People will say, ‘What? Those old biddies are going on a trip?’. I think that will tickle people’s interest.”
‘Gone To Pot: American Road Trip’ airs on Monday 13, Wednesday 15 and Friday 17 November on ITV, at 9pm.