Anti-Reefer Film Posters and Why Marijuana is Outlawed
We all know marijuana… pot, Mary Jane, dope, weed, herb, fatty bloom batty, left-handed cigarette… is illegal. Do you know why? Well, there are a number of reasons.
But first, let us go back and say that once upon a time, Cannabis Hemp was one of the most widely used and useful plants in history. Tincture of Cannabis was the basis for almost every patent medicine before the discovery of aspirin. Hemp was used for the production of high-quality paper, rope, and twine. And don’t forget “canvas” (derived from the word “cannabis”). You see, salt water deteriorated cotton sails, but not those made of the gange!
Fast-forward to the early 1900’s. There’s a lot of evidence supporting the reasoning that élite big businesses, like agriculture and industry, had a lot do with the outlawing cannabis. Big money tycoons, like DuPont, William Randolph Hearst, and oil barons, were in cahoots with the U.S. government was out to protect and build their fortunes
But there’s no doubt that pure-out racism played a major role. Fast-forward again to 1930’s. That was the year Harry J. Anslinger became the director of a new Treasury department– the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Bored but ambitious, Anslinger saw an incredible career opportunity to build his agency. He latched onto marijuana and began an all-out war, one where he could define a problem and provide the solution. Racism was the key. You see, Mexicans had poured over the border since the Mexican revolution in 1910. Americans didn’t like that. And Mexican laborers favored the blunt, a cheap alternative to alcohol in the days of prohibition. It was also a chance to take a swipe at other races.
So Anslinger created the “Gore Files”, a wild exploitation campaign filled with lies, fabrications and alternative facts designed to spread fear and hysteria. His themes of racism, violence, and degenerate sex drew national attention to the problem he created. Some of his crazy Gore File lies depicting the effects of marijuana include:
“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use.”
“This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
“A young boy who had become addicted to smoking marihuana cigarets killed his father, mother, two brothers and a sister, wiping out the entire family except himself.
“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of civilization.”
Yellow journalism and propaganda caught fire. States one-by-one passed legislation to outlaw pot. And in 1936, the cult classic film Reefer Madness was released. It was a lurid melodrama about a group of dope-smoking teens who descended into a hell of murder, suicide, and madness brought on by the infernal herb.
Not long after, it was followed by a long string of exploitive imitations like Assassin of Youth (a term coined by Anslinger) and Marihuana, where an innocent girl winds up impregnated, addicted to heroin and planning a kidnapping, all because of a single hit.
So puff puff, pass pass and enjoy a perusal of movie promos and posters from some of the craziest anti-refer films of the 1930’s and 1940’s.
1. “The Devil’s Weed” A Hallmark Production (1949)
2. The Burning Question (1938)
3. Devil’s Harvest (1942)
4. Today’s Headlines… Tomorrow’s Despair… Marihuana!
5. Assassin of Youth (1937)
6. Devil’s Harvest (1942)
7. El Tabaco Negro del Diablo
This poster is for an Argentinian film about a surgeon who’s wife dies from ‘marijuana addiction’.
8. She Shoulda Said No (1949)
9. Weed With Roots in Hell… MARIHUANA!
10. Devil’s Harvest (1942)
11. Assassin of Youth (1937)
12. The Burning Question (1938)
13. Reefer Madness (1936)
image source: Weedhorn | Getty images