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    Sean Daily is an English major from New Jersey now living in Las Vegas, the Other City of Lights. "I consider 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' to be comfort reading, I like the al pastor tacos at Tacos Mexico and I count among my literary influences the Chainsaw from 'Doom'. 'RRRRRR! You don't like that, do you, Mr. Undead Marine! RRRRRR!'"

    Shanoah Alkire is our Discordian at large. "Born in Santa Cruz, I grew up in Grass Valley and the Bay Area, and now lurk in Las Vegas. My literary influences include Ray Bradbury, Lewis Carroll, and Douglas Adams. I also program as a hobby, and currently maintain the Gtk port of Angband. You can find a rather old bio of me here."

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7-14-09 Reefer Madness

Posted by Sean on July 14, 2009

ZOMG! Well, you dirty birdie, if we’re going to have pro-drug propaganda [1] on this blog, then dammit we’re gonna have some anti-drug propaganda, too! You know, keep things Fair and Balanced™ and whatnot.

That’s right, it’s time for 1936’s Reefer Madness, courtesy of those fine folks at You can view it in full – and for free – here

Interestingly, Reefer Madness may not be the “propaganda film” that everyone says it is. Sez

Considered THE archetypal sensationalized anti-drug movie, but it’s really an exploitation film made to capitalize on the hot taboo subject of marijuana use. Like many exploitation films of the time, “Reefer Madness” tried to make a quick buck off of a forbidden subject while skirting the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930. The Code forbade the portrayal of immoral acts like drug use. (The illegal drug traffic must not be portrayed in such a way as to stimulate curiosity concerning the use of, or traffic in, such drugs; nor shall scenes be approved which show the use of illegal drugs, or their effects, in detail.)

The film toured around the country for many years – often being re-edited and re-titled (“Tell Your Children”, “Dope Addict”, “Doped Youth”, “Love Madness”, “The Burning Question”). It was re-discovered in the early 1970s by NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and screened again as an example of the government’s demonization of marijuana. NORML may have been confused about the film’s sponsorship since one of the film’s distributors, Dwain Esper, testified to the Arizona Supreme Court that “Reefer Madness” was not a trashy exploitation film but was actually sponsored by the U.S. Government – a convincing lie, but a lie nonetheless.

This is backed up by a review for Reefer Madness at

… But this reception of the more overtly ludicrous aspects of the film presupposes that Tell Your Children (as it was originally called) was truly intended as a heartfelt if clumsy warning against drug addiction. At least three sequences, barely registering with a modern viewer, demonstrate that it was not: the least subtle of the three is a lovemaking scene between the young leads that includes what appears to be French kissing, a strict taboo under the Production Code that regulated mainstream Hollywood fare; then a girl under the influence wantonly removes her sweater to reveal a brassiere; and, most subtly of all, but perhaps also the most indicative of the film’s true intent, the character of Mae Coleman’s seemingly superfluous changing of wardrobe. The sequence, during which Mae (Thelma White) lovingly rolls up her sheer stockings, may be explained to further establish the character as an unscrupulous despoiler of young innocents. But apart from parents, educators, and law officials, Mae is the only adult present with misgivings about the drug-induced orgies taking place in her apartment. Granted, the character is as ill-defined as everyone else in the film, but her presence still goes a long way to demonstrate Reefer Madness’ true mission: sexual titillation. 

Funny how fine the fine the line is between propaganda and exploitation, huh?

Whatever it is, though, Reefer Madness still great stuff – “great” in the sense that a train wreck is great, that is.

Not enough Reefer Madness for you? Please feel free to read the script at

Want some real honest-to-gods drug propaganda? Try these helpful resources at The Sputnik Drug Information Zone and the site for Reefer Madness!: The Musical.

[1] Actually, I have no idea if May the Cube Be With You was pro- or anti-drug. It could have been Thomas Dolby singing praises to Almighty Cthulhu, High Priest of R’Lyeh, and every time someone plays it humanity comes that much closer to the apocalypse. Like I’ve said before, I’m terrible with song lyrics.


One Response to “7-14-09 Reefer Madness”

  1. […] 7-14-09 Reefer Madness […]

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