The Horrors of Cannabis

“Weird orgies, wild parties, unleashed passions”…hard to believe this tagline was supposed to be a deterrent for using weed in the thirties.

But back in 1936, the “With Roots in Hell” propaganda campaign ran strong and stirred enough fear mongering that we still feel its effects in the cannabis industry.

From the intentional use of the word marijuana, to the cult classic film “Reefer Madness”, the world of cannabis propaganda is filled with some of the most head scratching advertisements and public service announcements out there. That’s why this Halloween we thought it’d be fun to take a trip down memory lane!

Here are some of the scariest and outright ridiculous propaganda pieces about cannabis.

But be warned, you might get scared away!



Posters for the movie "Reefer Madness" and "The Burning Question"


"Reefer Madness" (The Burning Question, Tell Your Children) directed by Louis J. Gasnier, 1936.

This propaganda classic shows the all too dangerous ramifications of high school students trying marijuana. Forget playing Mario Kart with your buddies while you scarf down a bag of chips, turns out if you smoke weed you'll do anything from manslaughter and suicide, to completely descend into madness from marijuana addiction.

This film was initially intended to be a morality tale about the dangers of cannabis use but was purchased by producer, Dwain Esper, who re-edited the film to be an exploitation picture that avoided censorship under the guise of moral guidance. Dope!


Four posters for the movie "Marihuana"


"Marihuana" directed by Dwain Esper, 1936.

Just in case Reefer Madness didn't scare you off, in comes this classic about how a trip to the beach can turn deadly. No, not by sharks, but when old man reefer shows up and melts some minds. We won't give too much away but let's just say this film is Final Destination meets Pineapple Express.


Posters for the film "Devil's Harvest"


"Devil's Harvest" directed by Ray Test, 1942.

Turns out weed and hotdogs are evil in this gem of a tale about a hotdog stand owner who sells drugs to children and is invariably taken down by ol' Johnny Law. Who says Hollywood has no original ideas?


A series of posters for the film "The Devil's Weed"


"The Devil's Weed" (She Shoulda Said No!) directed by Sam Newfield, 1949.

Ganja has never been more evil. We got psychiatric wards, deaths, and police investigations all stemming from smoking pot regularly in college. Who knew we were putting our lives into our own hands all those college parties long ago.


"The film was inspired by the highly publicized arrest of movie stars Robert Mitchum and Lila Leeds for marijuana possession. On September 1, 1948, the actors, along with two others, were arrested after being caught smoking marijuana at the home of Leeds in the early morning and were charged with the felony of narcotics possession. Leeds was sentenced to sixty days in prison and placed on probation for five years."




Book covers from the series "Marijuana Girl"


"Marijuana Girl" written by N.R DeMexico, 1951.

Before we had J.K. Rowling we had N.R. DeMexico knocking out magical classics like this one. It tells the tale of a high school student, Joyce, who is kicked out of school for doing something called a "bump-and-grind number".

From here she gets into the two most deadly things from the 50's: weed and jazz. Need I say more?


"Teen age dope slaves" book cover


"Teen-age Dope Slaves" written by Marvin Bradley, 1952.

We're just waiting for Disney's Marvel to buy up this comic book property. It doesn't mention weed a ton, but it still contains the same propaganda as other exploitation novels from this time.

The book "Reefer Girl"


 "Reefer Girl" (Young Sinners) written by Jane Manning, 1956.

Prepare for high stakes storytelling as we discover the pitfalls of smoking weed in your room.




A mews article about marijuana showing a convicted woman


"A case of reefer madness"


A news article about getting rid of marijuana


"Drives its smokers into murderous outbreaks"


A news article warning about marijuana


"Murder! Insanity! Death!"


An old news article about how marijuana put someone into a coma


"Leads to Insanity"


Well that wraps it up for this trip down memory lane. We know some of these are outright hilarious and you may be wondering to yourself "who would believe these"? But back then, few subjects were more taboo than drugs and drug use.

We still have a long way to go in breaking down the stigma surrounding cannabis but these propaganda pieces are a refreshing sign of how far we've come.

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    Published by Future Harvest

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  • Oct 29, 2021
  • Category: Articles
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