What is ‘Reefer Madness’?
I’m sure you’ve heard the reference, but do you know the history behind this poorly produced movie? Do you know it’s correlation with the ban on marijuana??
Reefer Madness (originally made as Tell Your Children and sometimes titled as The Burning Question, Dope Addict, Doped Youth, and Love Madness) is a 1936-1939 American drama film revolving around the melodramatic events that ensue when high school students are lured by pushers to try marijuana—from a hit and run accident, to manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, hallucinations, and descent into madness due to marijuana addiction. The film was directed by Louis Gasnier and starred a cast composed of mostly unknown bit actors.
Originally financed by a church group under the title Tell Your Children, the film was intended to be shown to parents as a morality tale attempting to teach them about the dangers of cannabis use. However, soon after the film was shot, it was purchased by producer Dwain Esper, who re-cut the film for distribution on the exploitation film circuit beginning in 1938-39 through the 1940s and 1950s.
The film was “rediscovered” in the early 1970s and gained new life as an unintentional satire among advocates of cannabis policy reform. Despite becoming a cult film, critics have panned it as one of the worst films ever made. Today, it is in the public domain in the United States.
–From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
OK, now you might be asking, what does this tale of morality have to do with medical marijuana? Before we get to that let’s get a little background on Prohibition, the Volstead act and the War on Drugs.
There is virtually no substantial history of any concern about the “evils” of marijuana in American society until the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, called the Volstead Act, or more commonly referred to historically as Prohibition. When alcohol prohibition went into effect, it was a big boost for cops, since many new police, customs agents, and U.S. Marshals were added to the government dole to protect American from the evils of alcohol. Just like today’s unjust marijuana laws, Prohibition was unpopular with the vast majority of Americans and was a complete failure. In fact, Prohibition increased the level of violent crime in America by opening the door to smuggling rings, bootleggers, and organized crime syndicates. In fact, the rise of the Mafia – and such notable criminals as Al Capone – can be traced directly back to the institution of Prohibition. Gangsters became rich and often gained celebrity status, elevating murderous thugs into national heroes.
– Excerpt from Washington Drug Defense
It’s so unfortunate that people can’t see past the propaganda and see how many possibilities there are for one plant.
“The DuPont’s held many lucrative patents on chemicals used in manufacturing plastics, paper, and paints that could become valueless if hemp products and hemp oil derivatives became widely available.” Washington Drug Defense
The tyrannical William Randolph Hearst,* the most powerful newspaper owner in America, wasn’t about to let marijuana (aka HEMP: which used to be Canada’s cash crop) affect his market share and began printing falsified and exaggerated stories about the “evils of marijuana”. The public needed to be convinced that hemp was the devil itself. During the 1930’s, the Hearst and DuPont families, in conjunction with corrupt (or ignorant) government officials, condoned and popularized movies (including Reefer Madness), books pamphlets and newspaper articles warning about the evils of smoking marijuana.
This all brings us to the wonderful Mr. Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics who successfully pushed more hysterical propaganda on the public to convince several more states to outlaw marijuana possession, getting the federal legislation he needed to outlaw the harmless herb. The proceedings of the The Anslinger Act – formally known as the ‘Marihuana’ Tax Act of 1937, are completely preposterous.**
So there you have it, a little background about why a perfectly harmless plant, that is wrought with amazing medical applications, is still to this day, ILLEGAL in Canada (without a medical prescription).
*To read more about REEFER MADNESS and the tyrannical William Randolph Hearst, the most powerful newspaper owner in America, and how he began printing falsified and exaggerated stories about the “evils of marijuana”, go here:
**For an in-depth historical narrative illustrating the Hearst/Dupont/Anslinger involvement in manufacturing Reefer Madness and their collective effect on passage of the ‘Marihuana’ Tax Act of 1937, go here: http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/anslng1.htm