Reefer Madness: absurd propaganda marijuana movie (1936)

Luke Sumpter

Reefer Madness is probably the worst propaganda film ever made. Want to become a rapist or a murderer? Smoke weed! LOL. 

There have been many lengthy campaigns that have sought to capture and control public opinion in regards to cannabis, its safety and its place in society. None have been so wildly desperate, illogical and science-repelling as the famous anti-drug propaganda piece of the 1930s: Reefer Madness.

Originally titled as Tell Your Children, the American drama film features a group of so called marijuana pushers, dealers and addicts who lure innocent and naive high school students into partaking in what is portrayed as hard drug use.

Ingestion of cannabis then results in a devastating hurricane of unfortunate and nefarious events. From hardcore addiction, rape, suicide, manslaughter and a descent into insanity. These events in short are opinion-based fabrications build on the foundations of factual ignorance and the intent to conjure and spread misinformation.

It may come as no surprise, then, to realise this visual catastrophe was created and funded by a church group that sought to morally educate the public about the dangers of drug use based on their incredibly warped perception of the matter. Reefer Madness was conceived and constructed in a time when a ruthless war was beginning to rage against drug use and the cultural minorities who indulged, one so big that its ripples can still be felt in society today.

A time when newspaper headlines read "Murder Weed Found Up and Down Coast", "Deadly Marijuana Dope Plant Ready For Harvest That Means Enslavement of California Children", and "Marijuana: Assassin of Youth".

It is as clear now as it was then, marijuana is in no way deadly. In fact it has be shown to be possibly the least harmful and least addictive drug that could possibly be introduced into the human organism, especially when compared to legally accessible alcohol and opiate-based medications that slay millions of people world wide on an annual basis.

Critics have described Reefer Madness as the worst film ever made, a reflection of the desperate inaccuracy that both inspired and are present within this monstrosity of a motion picture. The film saw more success with an audience that was not exactly targeted when the film was being produced. It was essentially rediscovered during the early 1970s and started to accumulate momentum as a satirical piece due to its absurd and baseless nature.

Reefer Madness remains an iconic relic of the past century, a fine example of how warped beliefs and fear-centred responses can indeed manipulate public opinion and, ultimately, the truth. Although it may have caused monumental amounts of damage to logical thinking and perception, it can today serve as a reminder that we must seek to question all of the information, and misinformation, aimed towards us in order to gather the most scientifically accurate and subjective view of reality available.

Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter

Luke has worked as a cannabis journalist and health science researcher for the past seven years. Over this time, he’s developed an advanced understanding of endocannabinoid system science, cannabis phytochemistry, and cultivation techniques.