reefer madness

Reefer Madness and its Cinematic Origins

Reefer Madness – In the early 1900s, the world was a very different place, cannabis propaganda was pushed out to the public on a massive scale, creating lies and deception of what cannabis really was. As a matter of fact, back then, people really believed that you could go insane from smoking a marijuana cigarette, something they called “Reefer Madness,” a term that was actually based off of a propagandistic film by the same name. The film was used as an instrument to spread lies and create a damaging reputation for marijuana.

Unfortunately, the effects of Reefer Madness still last to this day trickling down through several generations and making its way to the minds of many across North America. Even though the early 1900s was a long time ago, the stigma attached to cannabis still lingers among us, making it difficult for many people who rely on cannabis for the medicine to fully embrace the herb.

So how did this all happen anyway? To find out how and learn more about the history of cannabis in North America, keep on reading.

What is Reefer?

reefer

Reefer is an old school slang for marijuana that was heavily popularized in the early 1900s. It can be used to refer to any sort of item associated with cannabis, whether it be a marijuana cigarette, a cannabis plant, some hash, or even the flower of a cannabis plant. Most notably, the term Reefer was popularized by the movie Reefer Madness which was released in 1936.

Reefer Madness And Its Effects

So what exactly is Reefer Madness? Cannabis induced psychosis or Reefer Madness as some like to refer to it is the state of psychotic behavior achieved after smoking marijuana. This perceived threat of smoking cannabis was popularized in the 1930s by the film Reefer Madness, where three young impressionable high schoolers were coerced into trying a marijuana cigarette which led them down a road of addiction and madness, ultimately ruining their lives.

As far as whether cannabis-induced psychosis or Reefer Madness is an actual effect of cannabis is up for debate. Experts in the field do argue that cannabis consumption may lead to potential mental deterioration that features psychosis, many others tend to disagree. While there is a well-documented span of information between alcohol and its ability to cause psychosis, there is less evidence in regard to cannabis.

There is some evidence that cannabis may have a link to the onset of Schizophrenia, this only occurs to people we are genetically predisposed to acquiring it later in their lives. That said, cannabis does in fact have a complicated relationship with mental illness, but many experts are hesitant to fully put the burden on cannabis alone.

Reefer Madness – The Cinematic Confounder

Reefer Madness
A poster advertising ‘Reefer Madness’, an anti-drugs exploitation film, dealing with the pitfalls of marijuana smoking, directed by Louis J. Gasnier, 1936. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A lot of these claims of cannabis-induced psychosis seem to be based on outdated beliefs that were a byproduct of the false information released by the movie Reefer Madness.

When we take into account the actual validity of the information in the movie, it’s safe to say that Reefer Madness was developed based on false information which was intended to paint cannabis in a negative light. The movie includes several scenes that are not only unrealistic but also completely outrageous, verging on the point of becoming comical rather than informative. 

The movie depicts cannabis as an evil force that can ruin the lives of those who consume it. In one scene, cannabis is portrayed to cause outright insanity as a high schooler is accidentally murdered with a firearm after smoking a marijuana cigarette, while another goes on to frame a friend for that murder.

The Aftermath

As outrageous as Reefer Madness was, the masses still believed the movie to be a work of non-fiction. As a result, large amounts of people have naturally adopted stigmatic views on cannabis-based on false information.

What’s worse is that while legal, a lot of the stereotypes associated with weed hurt the reputation of those who rely on it for medicinal purposes. Cannabis use not is attached to a plethora of damaging stereotypes, but can also play a role in how a person navigates through life. Prospects for work may not be as abundant, potential romantic relationships may be forfeited, and certain social groups may have disdain for cannabis users.

The initial seeds planted by Reefer Madness created a dense maze of stereotypes and overgeneralizations that have been difficult to traverse by most. In fact, the stigmatic views of cannabis and cannabis users have caused social pressures for those who use it for treatment or are considering it for treatment.

This goes as far as some people concealing the fact that they use cannabis in order for them to preserve social status as the association with cannabis in North America could tarnish their reputation. This is true in many corporate settings where any and all drug use ifs highly frowned upon, save for a handful of pharmaceuticals and alcohol.

The need for social acceptance is an innate desire for nearly all human beings. As a result of these old stigmatic views towards cannabis, those who use it medically also have the added stress of finding ways to cope with the said stigmas. That said, many people have adopted the views of the old not by logical reasoning, but rather my emotional decision making, something which isn’t effective for this type of issue.

Final Thoughts

Even though cannabis has had a rocky start in the western world, it doesn’t have to end that way. With the advantage of scientific and empirical evidence backing up the use of cannabis, it is only a matter of time before the truth comes to light. 

At any rate, it will take some time before these old stigmas and stereotypes associated with cannabis can be fully forgotten and left to dust. 

As with anything else in life, it takes time for change to happen, but the key thing is, we have to be reminded of what we want to have changed, so we encourage you to help spread the truth about cannabis and crush any bit of false information to help place cannabis on track to societal acceptance. 

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