In 1933, the police arrived at a home in Tampa, Florida to find the blood-caked body of Victor Licata, a 21-year-old who just slaughtered his family with an axe. Reportedly prompted by an extreme nightmare, the "Dream Slayer" hacked up his father Michael, his mother Rosaline and his siblings, ages eight and 14.
"When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse," recounted "Marihuana: Assassin of Youth" in The American Magazine. "The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed. They sought the reason. The boy said he had been in the habit of smoking something which youthful friends called 'muggles,' a childish name for marijuana."
The Florida Hospital for the Insane diagnosed Licata with dementia praecox with homicidal tendencies, but Harry Anslinger, the original head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the "Assassin of Youth" author, dismissed that finding as nonsense. He claimed it was cannabis, not preexisting insanity, that triggered the mass murder, and he used tabloids to reframe the story with cannabis as the culprit. In his arsenal of reefer madness propaganda, this was one of his greatest hits, and Anslinger recounted the tale in testimony before Congress as part of his successful campaign to prohibit cannabis in 1937.
"How many murders, suicides, robberies, criminal assaults, holdups, burglaries, and deeds of maniacal insanity it causes each year, especially among the young, can be only conjectured," Anslinger claimed.
That was the 1930s, but these mad tales still continue 80 years later—albeit more dressed up with fancy clinical terms—making connections that defy logic and common sense. From the past year alone, check out these nine anti-cannabis claims, and prepare to have your mind blown.
Pregnant mom kills herself after smoking cannabis
The Sun tabloid in England published the following headline: "Mum, 32, who took cannabis to fight morning sickness 'killed herself after developing drug-induced psychosis.'" First off, to all the mums out there, don't smoke cannabis while preggers. Now please re-read the headline to fully appreciate how hard the paper had to stretch the truth to blame the suicide on cannabis. Yes, while pregnant, the woman apparently smoked cannabis and took psychedelic mushrooms to help with morning sickness… and then committed suicide? No. She gave birth to her second child in 2014, experienced postpartum depression and then killed herself in summer 2015. In other words, the paper suggests the cannabis she smoked in 2014 motivated her 2015 suicide… in which she was hit by a train. Apparently the mom left a mental hospital to get cigarettes, and she was in the hospital because she previously attempted suicide three times and overdosed twice. The family shared the story in 2017 to call attention to the dangers of postpartum depression, yet several right-wing papers (not just The Sun) twisted it into a cautionary anti-cannabis tale.
Cannabis legalization will lead to Communism and executions
This shocker comes from Canada, not the United States, proving that the spirit of Louie Gohmert doesn't just reside in Texas. Canadian conservative Ron Orr suggested legalization will lead to a Communist revolution in a surreal statement that read, "Here's the thing about the opium trade in China. It began as a medical thing, then it started to become something that was a fashionable refined pastime, especially among the young. We have today a fashionable, refined pastime among the young, which is smoking marijuana. And, unfortunately, now it leads to other things which are much more dangerous and much more destructive. Their whole society [in China] was so broken down and debilitated by it that it contributed to the Chinese Cultural Revolution under the communists, the execution of thousands of people, dealers were executed, fields were plowed under and planted with real food and I, for one, am not really willing to go down this road."
Cannabis legalization will enslave the youth and get our toasters high
O Canada, we're not done with you yet. Another conservative, Peter Kent, said cannabis is as dangerous as fentanyl, while Claude Carignan, another conservative, said legalization tells kids it's okay to smoke joints in school hallways. Dave Vankesteren, another conservative, said this gateway drug "would enslave our youth and make the government the new pusher on the block," while Marilyn Gladu, another conservative, busted out a rhyme for Parliament with anti-dope lines like, "With nearly 200 more days left 'til the day, nobody but our party stands in the way / We hope that the Senate will do its true deed, and keep our great country safe from all the weed." Lil Mari's "think of the children" argument also included, "Little Johnny can put some [cannabis] in the toaster oven and smoke it up." Obviously she didn't hang with the cool kids in high school.
Cannabis causes users to scream and vomit (or scromit)
Australian researchers originally made the cannabis-vomit connection in 2004 after studying cannabis smokers—90 percent of whom also displayed cannabis-prompted "abnormal washing behavior"—who started to experience chronic vomiting. Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) can supposedly involve simultaneous screaming and vomiting, and the "scromiting" hype produced headlines around the world in 2017. Keep in mind, this all started with people who thought cannabis, not chronic vomiting, was more likely to motivate obsessive cleaning.
Cannabis causes violence
Few tabloids crank out as much reefer madness as The Daily Mail, and the British right-wing tabloid went with a classic when it claimed cannabis makes people violent. PRØHBTD already called BS on this claim here, but in a nutshell, the paper summarized a study that claimed people let out of psychiatric wards are more likely to commit violent acts if they smoke cannabis, even more so than those who abuse alcohol and do blow. The study appeared in a pay-to-publish family of journals that previously suggested vaccinations cause autism.
35-year-old man attempts to amputate his arms after cannabis
Legal Medicine published a case report titled "Death by self-mutilation after oral cannabis consumption" that claimed cannabis made a 35-year-old man go crazy and kill himself. Per the study, the man started to display incoherent behavior around friends, who proceeded to take him to the hospital. On the way, the man jumped out of the car, stripped naked, smashed his head against a bus and then tried to amputate his arms using the bus windshield wipers. When police and fire officials arrived, the man gouged out both eyes and then impaled himself on a supermarket's wire fence. The man had cannabis in his system and appeared to be a regular user, ergo the researchers said cannabis must be the cause for the madness. The study also noted that men have attempted to cut their junk off after smoking weed, a Reefer Madness-level assertion that PRØHBTD addressed here.
35-year-old man attempts to amputate his wrist after cannabis
No, this is not an echo, and we're including this 2016 claim here because it came out December 29. Anyway, "Cannabis abuse and self-mutilation," published in Journal of Forensic Science & Criminology, details the case report of a 35-year-old man who attempted to cut his right wrist off. The doctors later discovered cannabis in his system, so naturally cannabis was to blame.
Marijuana made me do it
An oldie but a goodie: A 20-year-old Oregon man stabbed a partygoer to death in 2016, and the jury found him guilty by reason of insanity. The killer told the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board in December that he thinks cannabis caused him to go insane, which suggests cannabis is the real culprit behind the stabbing. This move harkens back to the 1930s and 1940s when murderers pointed to reefer madness stories as a way to blame cannabis for their killings and ideally get reduced sentences.
Female teacher gets high and sleeps with teen she met at Chick-fil-A
This incident happened in Houston, Texas, at least according to the media, and it suggests teens who smoke cannabis are at risk of having consensual sex with 23-year-old blonde teachers. Obviously the male teens might to be too concerned about this, but they do risk the embarrassment of a failing grade.
Photo credit: Reefer Madness musical.