Photos: Anti-marijuana propaganda -- a vintage guide to reefer madness
Our newish Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule feature spotlights hysterical pot reporting from days gone by -- from 1937's "School Children Buy Drug" to 1968's "Anti-symbol Hippie Ponders Future in Jail."
Today, in that tradition, we've assembled a gallery of anti-marijuana propaganda from the 1930s to the 1970s. Check out the reefer madness below.
Pulp fiction These three book covers represent the dozens of cheap dime novels written about marijuana in the 1940s. They all have a very seductive quality about them, drawing the reader in with the cover alone -- only to bash you over the head with melodramatic fables of marijuana-induced insanity.
There's something awesomely campy about this joint-toking devil holding a busty broad by the waist. This is one of my all-time favorites and one I've been looking for as an addition to my own personal artwork collection. Hemp for Victory
Cannabis propaganda of another kind: a pro-cultivation message about then-legal hemp in the name of supporting U.S. troops in World War II. Of course, the majority of people at this time didn't associate harmless hemp with "tobacco negro del Diablo". "Assassin of Youth"
The corruption of kids is a constant theme in a lot of these fliers, pulp books and movie posters, though not always as blatantly as the one above from the Narcotic Educational Foundation of America. It's more of a poster for identifying marijuana growing illegally, so people could more-easily narc on their neighbors. Continue to more of our vintage guide to anti-marijuana propaganda and reefer madness. Beware!
Here's a poster from the early 1970s, warning everyone to look out for "friendly strangers" handing out harmless-looking doobies that could lead to you going crazy, murdering someone and then committing suicide. And beware, these shady dealers might put the loco weed in your coffee or cigarettes without you knowing simply to get you hooked. The Devil's Weed
The cover of this pulp novel promises to "rip the veil of secrecy from marihuana smokers", whatever that means. The subject, Lila Leeds, was one of three people arrested in Hollywood in 1948 as part of the city's first big drug scandal. That said, you've got to think that it had the unintended consequences of actually turning people on to cannabis. After all, the blonde Lila Leeds was quite the knockout in her time. Devil's Harvest
In case you haven't noticed, linking marijuana directly to Satan himself is a running theme in anti-marijuana propaganda. This poster, from a 1942 film, promises tales of "degradation, vice, insanity and debauchery." The movie starred baby-faced June Doyle, who no doubt scared plenty of parents into locking their daughters up at night. Continue to more of our vintage guide to anti-marijuana propaganda and reefer madness. WEED with ROOTS in HELL
Weird orgies? Wild parties? Unleashed passions? Freaking sign me up. Oh, wait, you're trying to deter me from this plant? Too late. (Also note the completely unrelated scene of people shooting up heroin thrown in for good measure.) Reefer Madness
Here are two of the posters from the now-cult classic that started it all. For those of you who haven't seen it, it's a series of completely over-the-top scenes of people being mowed down by stoned drivers, having vivid hallucinations, and suffering fits of violence -- plus a number of other vignettes meant to scare kids straight. In reality, the draw was Dorothy Short, Lillian Miles and the sexy Thelma White as the incorrigible Mae Coleman. The film was considered a flop until it rediscovered in the 1970s by hippies into irony. Continue to more of our vintage guide to anti-marijuana propaganda and reefer madness. "Assassin of Youth" (take two)
As you can see, there wasn't much originality among the anti-marijuana crowd. This poster promises a "a puff, a part and a tragedy," but the partially topless redhead likely promised boys a glimpse at some skin. "Assassin of Youth" (take three)
Though the imagery may be lost on today's public, this poster is making a direct connection between marijuana and the occult -- specifically the worship of Moloch, a god worshiped by ancient people and commonly associated with child sacrifice. So basically it's saying that if society continues to look the other way, pushers will be sacrificing little Johnny and little Suzy to a false idol. You wouldn't want that, would you?
More from our Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule archive: "Colorado Cannabis Time Capsule, 1937: 'A growing social menace.'"
Get the Marijuana Newsletter
Stay informed of the latest marijuana news and views with updates about dispensaries, strains, products, changes to the law, and special offers in your area.
- Reader: Bars Will Lose a Ton on Drink Sales If They Let People Smoke Weed
- Thirty Mind-Blowing Murals at the Heart of Project Colfax
- The Mexican Says Adiós to Denver