I am sure most of you are familiar with Reefer Madness, the 1936 propaganda exploitation film directed at young highschool kids and their parents, which dramatized the terrifying events that would ensue if these kids were approached by shrewd “dope peddlers” and their “killer drug” otherwise known as cannabis. If one chose to spark up, the effects were immediate and devastating. From attempted rape, to manslaughter, from suicide, to hit and runs and of course the inevitable descent into utter madness.
The message of this particular film was that consuming cannabis was a matter of sanity or insanity, life or death. Thankfully, I’ve never come across that particular strain of ganja, and I am pretty sure no else has either! But sadly now, claims like this are not entirely unsupported, just not regarding cannabis, but instead synthetic marijuana. The illegalization of cannabis has in fact created a market for synthetic marijuana which unfortunately has been known to cause some very bad and sometimes fatal side effects. Could this have been avoided? I will save this topic for another day.
Back to Reefer…..
Reefer Madness was originally financed by a church group and released under the name Tell Your Children, intended to be shown to parents as a morality tale while attempting to sell them on the dangers of Marijuana. It was then purchased by Dwain Esper, an American director and producer of exploitative films, who re cut the film and sent it out into the exploitation film circuit.
However, by the 1970’s, Reefer Madness had gained a whole new audience but at the comedic level, specifically through the advocates of the Cannabis Policy Reform, which rocketed it into cult status. But on June 17th, 1971, President Richard Nixon launched his signature “war on drugs” which took focus off the health detriments of weed and instead continued to demonize the drug leading to a mass incarceration of marijuana related crimes in which sometimes carried longer sentences than murder!
Generations have since recognized the absurdity of the film and it has become a cult classic, playing rerun at pot-friendly parties and in inquisitive teen bedrooms. I remember being 17 years old, the first time I gazed at this is magnificent piece of comedy, puzzled by the messages and shocked that anyone ever believed the lies surrounding it. Later I learned that pot fear mongering and propaganda had not only inspired films like this, but had in fact set the tone for an entire generation and their beliefs surrounding marijuana.
The war on drugs is in full swing in North America, and it isn’t just between the “good guys” (i.e govt, police, lawmakers and law abiding civilians) and the “bad guys” (drug dealers, gangs, drug users) the real war concerning cannabis lies between fact and fiction.
Since the release of the film, scientific research has consistently debunked the once extreme claims, that marijuana can cause uncontrollable violent behavior, physical addiction, and insanity. In fact, just the opposite. However, I could name a few LEGAL drugs like, alcohol, benozodiazepines, Chantix-the smoking cessation drug, which have been known to cause all three side effects; yet anyone with an I.D can purchase alcohol, or obtain a script for the other two from their personal family practitioner.
So why is it we can drink, take tranquillizers, or hundreds of other legal drugs which cause nasty unwanted side effects, and sometimes cause brutal, violent behavior, but not puff on a highly medicinal plant that not only promotes calmness and ease, but in fact reverses dis-ease!
Two words. Reefer Madness.
Just not the film exactly, but the lies that set forth the real reefer madness that caused marijuana prohibition way back in the 20’s, inspired films like Reefer Madness in the 30’s and finally the the illegalization of marijuana in 1937.
Until Part Two, remember, don’t fear the reefer….