Reefer Madness

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The 1930s government propaganda film Reefer Madness, which I saw for the first time in class, portrays marijuana in a way that I haven’t seen. It gives the impression that marijuana is the worst drug known to man and will literally destroy your life. In the movie, it associates use of weed with reckless driving, manslaughter, murder, rape, extreme apathy, specifically loss of motivation in school work, and suicide. These crimes and bad deeds are carried out by “addicts” of marijuana. I feel like this depiction of the drug, which was also misclassified as a narcotic in the movie, is incredibly over-the-top and even ridiculous. My understanding of the effects of marijuana is quite the contrary to the way it is shown in Reefer Madness. I would agree that apathy may be a side effect of the drug, but people do not commit violent crimes due to use of the drug, nor is it addictive.

It is understandable, however, that the movie is inaccurate concerning details of the drug because much can be learned in 50 years about a drug. In contrast, it is wrong to deliberately put false details in a film with the intent to give the public an erroneous perception of marijuana. I am in no way advocating the use of marijuana, nor do I necessarily disagree with the attempt to steer people away from using any controlled substance, but I do think that at the time there were other drugs that were much more harmful than marijuana that efforts could have been focused on. For instance, alcohol prohibition had just ended in 1933 and alcohol is an addictive drug and causes many more incidents of violence than marijuana. Even nicotine, which is an addictive drug and is widely used in our country, has much worse long-term effects. Marijuana has not been linked to lung cancer, as tobacco use has been, which kills 1.3 million people annually. It seems that efforts to endorse the “terrible nature of marijuana” in the film could have spent in other ways. This caused many people to go...
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