The Reefer Madness Marijuana Misinformation Propaganda Campaign in the 1930’s

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Reefer Madness is an American misinformation propaganda film that utilised a relatively new technology at the time, motion picture to spread misinformation about cannabis.

Watching the film should make even the most sceptical opponents of cannabis realize how ridiculous these anti cannabis lies get over time. As science is progressing and cannabis related medical discoveries are surfacing regularly, the early efforts to mislead the public are getting increasingly ridiculous and outrageous at the same time.

These days, everyone knows that smoking cannabis won’t make you want to kill your brother, the claims that were presented against marijuana are absurd and total nonsense.

They are, however, also outrageous as after 80 years passing by since the Reefer Madness film, it is clear that the anti cannabis propaganda was entirely fuelled by the personal financial interest of individuals.

Even in those early days, 2 inclusive investigations, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission’s Report and the Panama Canal Zone Military Investigation into marijuana by the US Military, both discouraged limiting public access to cannabis. Despite the Panama US investigation being so thorough and detailed, the US government spread misinformation that they knew wasn’t true from their own government investigations.

The entire war on drugs and prohibition was created to support the financial interest and political agenda of a few selected individuals.
In terms of financial interest, the threat that hemp presented to petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals as well as to the paper industry had to be eliminated.

Media mogul William Randolph Hearst was in the business of publishing newspapers and operating timber plantations to produce paper for printing his papers and magazines on. He was more than happy to utilize his power to reach the public through the most powerful media at the time, newspapers and magazines to demonize cannabis.

Lammot du Pont did not like the competition that hemp fibre presented to the Dupont Chemical Company, while the Rockefeller backed developing pharmaceutical industry had a great challenge with the common herbal medicines of the time, most especially cannabis, that seemed to be working for such wide range of conditions.

In terms of political interest, the Great Depression of the 1930’s was the worst economic downturn that the industrial world had experienced to date and everyone was feeling the pinch.
The downswing was devastating for the working class, most especially for communities of colour.
During economic downturns, finding a scapegoat and blaming minorities is a common populist approach, that is why racism and anti migration was heavily influencing politics at this point in time as well.

The US government established the U.S. Treasury Department Bureau of Narcotics in 1930.

Harry Anslinger became the director of the new organisation. Anslinger was the husband of the niece of Andrew Mellon, the US Treasury Secretary, who also owned Mellon Bank, one of the biggest banks in the world at that time.

Anslinger was a resentful racist and became the mastermind of using cannabis to discredit minorities, founded by industrialist that were set to lose from the popularity of cannabis.
He created an unfair, financially beneficial situation for bigots and a few selected individuals, while allegedly causing one of the most catastrophic tragedies to humanity.

The Reefer Madness film was financed by a religious group and was titled “Tell Your Children”, however, this group sold the film after production to Dwain Atkins Esper, an exploitation film producer.

The film was meant to show teenagers and young adults the alleged dangers of smoking marijuana. The story was about a 16 years old marijuana addict kid, who got caught robbing a store and killed his entire family with an axe.

“The Real Public Enemy Number One”.
These dangers include turning into a murderer but it doesn’t start there. “Its first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter; then come dangerous hallucinations – space expands – time slows down. Almost stands still… fixed ideas come next. Conjuring up monstrous extravagances – followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts,
the loss of all power to resist physical emotions… leading finally to acts of shocking violence… ending often in incurable insanity.”

Here is the entire film to watch if you’d like to have a good laugh:

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