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We watched ‘Reefer Madness’ to confirm it’s still complete garbage

January 27, 2020
(Motion Picture Ventures, Public Domain)

We may have found the worst movie of all time.

Reefer Madness, originally titled Tell Your Children, is a propagandistic film from 1936 about the negative effects that marijuana will have on humanity and why it’s imperative that the world oppose the plant.

It follows the stories of a few high schoolers—siblings Jimmy and Mary Lane, and Mary’s boyfriend, Bill—who meet some marijuana salesmen, start hanging out at a “reefer house,” and ultimately, ruin their lives by getting into serious legal trouble (Mary’s accidental death). The overall goal of it is for parents to be able to take this film, show it to their children, and say “If you use drugs, this is your future.”

Though the movie has been out since I was like -54 years old, I had never taken the time to watch what some film critics have called one of the worst movies ever. So, in the spirit of continuing our mission to end the negative stigmas around cannabis consumption and its many many wellness benefits, I decided to peep this movie and make a list of all the silly shit I observed.

The ‘marijuana is more dangerous than heroin’ callout

Off the top, this is the biggest lie in the entire film. I don’t even need to open my “No one has ever overdosed on cannabis” bag to combat it. I live in Seattle where we see people openly use both substances in public daily, and lemme tell ya, the people with vape pens are doing a lotttt better than the people stabbing their arms with needles.

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The unrealistic subliminal messaging

They sneak in many anti-marijuana arguments disguised as discussion. During one scene, the high school principal is talking to another man about why parents should be worried about marijuana use, and the man rattles off a few stirring stories: one of a man who got high and killed his whole family with an axe, another about a woman who got high and was “taken” by five men.

While these crimes do happen, not a single one of them is due to the high you feel from consuming cannabis. You might get high and feel euphoric, happy, sleepy, or relaxed, but murderous and rapey? Absolutely not.

(Motion Picture Ventures, Public Domain)

The high hit-and-run

Under the influence of marijuana, Jimmy runs over a man with his car because he didn’t react in enough time to see the streetlight change from green to STOP. So he does about 50 mph right through the light, completely runs his car over a pedestrian, and never notices, all because of weed. These filmmakers want you to believe you can get so high that you wouldn’t notice a human body barreling under your car. Come on, man.

The physical withdrawals from cannabis use

Multiple times throughout this film they portray marijuana “addicts” as these crazy wide-eyed junkies who switch into a manic state of being any time they need their fix. It’s especially apparent at the end when Ralph, one of the weed salesmen turned insane criminal, is damn near scratching his neck while demanding he be brought more “reefers.” It’s quite possibly the biggest sign of “OK, this movie is bullshit” that you’ll see, while we can debate the emotional and intellectual withdrawals that make you go criminally insane.

TL;DR: Cannabis does NOT turn you into a crack addict.

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NO ONE INHALES

Every time people smoke in this film, they blow out the biggest clouds ever. It’s clear they’re not inhaling, but instead, lighting joints and then blowing directly out. These kids don’t even know how to smoke big weed, so their antics definitely are not the result of Mary Jane. In addition to never inhaling, these people never cough either. This leads me to believe they are not really smoking, because we KNOW the the cannabis back then wasn’t clean or good enough for smooth hits.

Overall, this movie is full of misleading information about the plant, backed by unrealistic imagery of its effects, and it’s easily one of the most uncreative and tone-deaf pieces of anti-cannabis propaganda to ever exist.

Dante Jordan's Bio Image

Dante Jordan

Dante Jordan is an Associate Subject Matter Expert for Leafly, where he specializes in informational and lifestyle content pertaining to cannabis strains and products. He also manages the Leafly strain database.

View Dante Jordan's articles

  • Highway 69

    Man, I’m shocked you just now watched this!
    It was always good for laughs at any party.
    Somebody upon seeing it for the first time would always ask, “Was this movie real?”

    • Robert Gerus

      are you really that stupid

      • Highway 69

        Until I reach your level of stupidity…

  • YearofAction

    Back in the day, the filmmakers didn’t understand the different drugs or their effects. Since the film was about “marihuana”, they ascribed the visible effects from various drugs in their portrayals of “marihuana” users, to scare the audience.

    Note that the references to “marihuana” in the image at the beginning of the article are clues to the actual meaning of the term: “a puff of smoke”, “a burning weed”, even the shocking title “Reefer Madness”.

    “Marihuana” is the Mexican slang term for cannabis, so assigning that term to cannabis was a way to inject racism into the fear inducing propaganda, to ensure the deceitful federal prohibition of cannabis, which had been legal up to that time.

    There were three deceptions in the original malformed federal definition of “marihuana” that enabled the cannabis plant to be confused with marijuana, so that the plant could be prohibited under the guise of marijuana prohibition:

    1. The Disparaging Racism that is imbued into that federal law by the use of the Mexican slang term “marihuana”.

    2. The Dismembered Riddle that adumbrates how marijuana is actually derived from cannabis: Marijuana is what substance that is “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L.”, and simultaneously “does not include the mature stalks of such plant”?

    3. The Unjust Aggrandizement of marijuana prohibition that subsumes the legitimate federal prohibitions of cannabis use, which are established by the 2nd, 9th, 10th, and 14th Amendments.

    There have been three malformed federal definitions of “marihuana” over the years, and each definition has contained all three deceptions:

    1. The Original Malformed Definition of Marijuana, from the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

    Sec. 1.
    (b) The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds, or resin- but shall not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

    2. The Schedule 1 Malformed Definition of Marijuana, from the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

    Sec. 802.
    (16) The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

    3. The Severely Malformed Definition of Marijuana, from the Farm Bill of 2018.

    Sec. 802.
    (16)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B), the term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.
    (B) The term “marihuana” does not include (i) hemp, as defined in section 1639o of title 7; or (ii) the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

    The third definition added another deception:

    4. The Redundant Exclusions for hemp that misleadingly implies that the “hemp plant” is the legal variety of the illegal “marijuana plant”, with the boundary being an arbitrary federal limit of 0.3% THC, when both “plants” are actually the same plant, Cannabis sativa L.

    “Hemp” actually refers to cannabis fibers, which always do have less than 0.3% THC, and “marijuana” actually refers to cannabis smoke, which is all parts of the plant and simultaneously does not contain the mature stalks.

    The “marihuana” deceptions can be eliminated all together, and altogether, by simply reconstructing the definition in these obvious ways:

    1. Replace the disparaging racist term “marihuana” with its anglicized homonym “marijuana”.

    2. Replace the riddle that adumbrates the meaning of marijuana, with a clear description of how marijuana is actually derived from cannabis.

    3. Include the specific, legitimate federal prohibitions of cannabis use from the 2nd, 9th, 10th, and 14th Amendments, which control the undesired proliferation of marijuana itself.

    4. Eliminate the reference to the superfluous federal definition of hemp, while repurposing hemp’s arbitrary 0.3% THC limit as a limit for cannabis use.

    Reconstructing the current definition to eliminate all of its deceptions will create a definition that carefully deschedules cannabis, yet retains the prohibited status of marijuana itself, until its adulterated medical value is reconsidered.

    This reconstructed definition has the straightforward, necessary and proper format to literally uphold the Constitution. It carefully deschedules cannabis within a perimeter of limited federal controls, so that marijuana itself can be subsequently descheduled or rescheduled:

    Sec. 802.

    (16) The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L., which is, as are the viable seeds of such plant, prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company, and such smoke is prohibited to be inhaled by any child or by any person bearing any firearm, as is their intake of any part or any product of such plant containing more than 0.3% THC by weight unless prescribed to such child by an authorized medical practitioner.

    Only Congress can reconstruct the definition, so let’s contact our members of Congress, as well as our favored congressional candidates, about reconstructing the malformed federal definition of marijuana, to restore the state’s powers to control cannabis uses, and to protect citizens’ rights, privileges and immunities to grow and carefully use the versatile, valuable, renewable natural resource that is the plant Cannabis sativa L.

    We must work untiringly so that our children are obliged to learn the truth, because it is only through knowledge that we can safely protect them. Failing this, the next tragedy may be that of your daughter, or your son, or yours, or yours, or YOURS!

  • starviego

    “this movie is full of misleading information about the plant, backed by unrealistic imagery of its effects”

    And all this time I thought it was accurate! Thanks for enlightening me.

  • bill wa

    The things our grandparents didn’t know lol. That movie was made during a time when everyone is hopped up on massive amounts of cocaine, and heroine and morphine was OTC. Hemp was used back then to make rope for navy boats and making stoners play music. My how the times changed.

  • Tessa Rasmussen

    Watch the musical. It is way better!