The cautionary, anti-marijuana film Reefer Madness falsely informed thousands of unknowing Americans about the dangers of marijuana in the 1930s.
Reefer Madness is a cult, exploitation film directed by Louis J. Gasnier. Nowadays, Reefer Madness would evoke laughter, but viewers in the 30s would have been disturbed by it. The film follows high school students as they are lured by marijuana dealers/pushers to smoke pot. Once the students are high they lose control of their sanity and participate in a vehicular hit and run, suicide, manslaughter, attempted sexual assault and more.
Here are five interesting facts about Reefer Madness:
1. The Victor Licata Story Inspired the Film
On October 16, 1933, a Tampa, Florida native, Victor Licata murdered his family with an ax. Licata was 20-years old when the crimes occurred. In the middle of the night, he murdered his parents, two brothers, and a sister. The media said Victor Licata was addicted to smoking marijuana cigarettes, which drove him to murder his family. In actuality, Victor Licata supposedly suffered from psychosis and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. There is no evidence that Licata was under the influence of marijuana during the event. However, the media took advantage of the incident to spark panic which inspired Reefer Madness.
2. Reefer Madness Has Five Alternate Movie Names
The original title to the movie was Tell Your Children. The title Tell Your Children lacked shock value. In 1939, the film re-released as The Burning Question, then Dope Addict, Doped Youth, and Love Madness. In 1947, the movie was renamed Reefer Madness, referring to the insanity and debauchery that takes over high individuals.
3. Reefer Madness Helped Push Marijuana Legislation Forward
In 1930, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was created. Harry Anslinger, was appointed the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He remained in the bureau until 1962. Anslinger waged a war against marijuana for years. He commissioned studies on marijuana and its effects on violence. Reefer Madness and other national anti-marijuana campaigns raised the public’s concern over the risks of violence and addiction of their children. The public pressured politicians which eventually helped enact The Marihuana Act of 1937. The Marijuana Act of 1937 was passed a year after Reefer Madness (titled Tell Your Children at the time) was released.
4. Reefer Madness Was Ironically Used To Fund Legalization Efforts
In 1972, the founder of NORML, National Organization for the Reform of Legalization, Keith Stroup screened Reefer Madness to raise money. Keith Stroup discovered Reefer Madness was public domain due to erroneous copyright issues. He purchased a copy from the Library of Congress for $297. Stroup screen Reefer Madness all over the state of California charging $1 for admission. In the end, NORML raised $16,000.
5. Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger Appears In Reefer Madness
Approximately five minutes into the start of Reefer Madness shows footage of the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger at a heroin drug bust. Anslinger reveals heroin concealed inside barrels.
Watch the Entire Reefer Madness (1936) Movie
Reefer Madness Information
|Director||Louis J. Gasnier|
|Original Story||Lawrence Meade|
|Additional Dialogue||Paul Franklin|