In 1936, a church-funded film called Tell Your Children dramatized a cannabis-driven descent into madness that included attempted rape, suicide and hallucinations. About a year later, the producer behind such grindhouse fare as Sex Maniac, Marihuana and How to Undress in Front of your Husband purchased the film, recut the footage and debuted it on the exploitation film circuit under its new title, Reefer Madness. The film, which experienced a revival as satire in the 1970s, made the term “reefer madness” synonymous with dubious claims about cannabis turning men into Manson.
These cautionary tales are a joke to most, but the propaganda lives on with books like (drumroll please…) Tell Your Children (2019), which offers an extensive list of violent acts inspired by cannabis. Per the author, “Marijuana causes psychosis. Psychosis causes violence. The obvious implication is that marijuana causes violence.” In February, a group of 100 scholars and clinicians repudiated the book with a public statement on its cover-to-cover flaws, while a former Surgeon General wrote a separate editorial calling the claims “misinformed and reckless.”
Ever defiant, the author then suggested Spike Jonze should be held liable for all the new cases of psychosis he caused by directing an online commercial for MedMen.
A century of reefer madness confirms that cannabis makes people go loco, but it’s the anti-cannabis obsession, not the plant, that causes all the craziness. Find even the slightest correlation between cannabis and anything bad ever, and these anti-reefer madmen go straight to causation.
Just how mad can these madmen get? The following are several anti-cannabis claims that are crazy AF.
Terrorists smuggle nuclear warheads in bales of weed: Republican congressman Trent Franks told CNN, “We sometimes used to make the point that if someone wanted to smuggle a dangerous weapon into America, even a nuclear weapon, how would they do it? The suggestion is, maybe we’ll hide it in a bale of marijuana.” Franks, who once implied that African-Americans were better off under slavery, later resigned after female employees said he offered them millions to serve as surrogate mothers via traditional insemination.
Cannabis causes teens to have sex with teachers they meet at Chick-fil-A: This particular incident happened in Houston, Texas, and the media literally suggested that male teens who smoke reefer are at a higher risk of having consensual sex with 23-year-old female blonde teachers.
Cannabis fucks up toaster ovens: Legalization brought out the worst in Canadian conservatives. Peter Kent said cannabis is as dangerous as fentanyl, Claude Carignan said legalization tells kids it’s okay to smoke joints in school hallways, and Dave Vankesteren said this gateway drug “would enslave our youth.” But the top prize goes to Marilyn Gladu, who said “Little Johnny can put some [cannabis] in the toaster oven and smoke it up” before busting out an anti-reefer rap: “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.”
Cannabis creates communists: Canadian conservative Ron Orr suggested legalization will lead to a Communist revolution for which the “human, social cost of this is going to be astronomical.” Orr mumbled the following in a statement: “The opium trade in China… 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 causes windshield wiper amputations: “Death by self-mutilation after oral cannabis consumption” in Legal Medicine claimed that cannabis made a 35-year-old incoherent man to jump out of his friend’s car, strip naked, smash his head against a bus and then attempt to amputate his arms using the bus windshield wipers. By the time the police and fire officials arrived, the man had gouged out both eyes and impaled himself on a supermarket’s wire fence. The man had cannabis in his system so the researchers said that must be the reason he acted out.
Cannabis causes non-windshield wiper amputations: “Cannabis abuse and self-mutilation” in the Journal of Forensic Science & Criminology details the case report of another 35-year-old man who nearly cut his right wrist off with a razor. The doctors later discovered cannabis in his system, so naturally the reefer was to blame.
Reefer causes scromit: Cannabis causes people to chronically scream and vomit at the same time, per Australian researchers who studied 19 chronic scromitters. The 2004 study, which led to more scromit headlines around the world, said cannabis also inspired “abnormal washing behavior” in 90 percent of the participants. “Compulsive bathing behaviour suggests a toxic response to one or more of the active ingredients of cannabis,” said the researchers, who seemed to rule out the widely accepted idea of self-medicating cannabis use. Interestingly, another study found that most scromitters are not current cannabis consumers, so compulsive blaming behavior appears to be a symptom of reefer madness.
Cannabis, not opioid overprescribing, is the killer: Bill Bennett is the only former Education Secretary that might lose to Betsy DeVos in a spelling bee. Two decades after becoming the country’s first Drug Czar, the Going to Pot author argued on Fox News that illegal drugs, not overprescribing, is the cause of the opioid crisis. Cannabis is “where it starts,” and medical cannabis is just a “Trojan horse.” In the past, Bennett endorsed beheading drug dealers and suspending their habeas corpus rights, and he once said, “You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” What an asshole. The only person madder than this dipshit is the friend who set him up on a blind date with Janis Joplin in the late ’60s that went as well as you might expect.
Cannabis causes men to castrate themselves: From the cheerful “Bilateral testicular self-castration due to cannabis abuse” in 2011 to the Disney-ready “A case of self amputation of penis by cannabis induced psychosis” in 2012, several studies claim that smoking cannabis can cause men to cut their junk. PRØHBTD previously called bullshit on this claim here.
Cannabis leads to mass murder: In a 2018 post, PopPot.org argued that cannabis possibly motivated mass murder by the likes of Texas church shooter Devin Patrick Kelley, Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear, Aurora shooter James Holmes, Tucson shooter Jared Loughner and Chattanooga shooter Mohammed Abdulazeez as well as the Boston Marathon bombers, the London/Manchester bombers, the Oklahoma City bomber and the Bastille Day terrorist. Here’s an example of PopPot science in action: “Satoshi Uematsu, hated handicapped people whom he considered a burden on society. The Japanese man who stabbed and killed 19 disabled people in 2016 frequently advocated for marijuana legalization.”
“Testicular tumors forming in an obese society with simultaneous legalization of cannabinoid’s”: Two grammatically challenged researchers studied an overweight 33-year-old with a “sedentary life style” and blamed the couch potato’s “potentially fatal” testicular masses on his casual cannabis use. The study suggested the increase in cannabis use over the last 50 years is likely to blame for the spike in testicular tumors.
Cannabis kill babies: The report “Baby boy is first marijuana overdose, doctors claim” references a study that said, “The authors report an 11-month-old male who, followingcannabis exposure, presented with central nervous system depression after seizure, and progressed tocardiac arrest and died.” (Yes, the conjoined words are in the original text.) After other researchers called BS, one of the doctors told the Washington Post, “We are absolutely not saying that marijuana killed that child.” So what were they saying? Speaking with the Cannabist, the doctor clarified, “All we are saying is we didn’t find any other reasons” besides, you know, the child living in an “unstable motel-living situation” with parents who admitted to possessing hard drugs.
Raping and pillaging for Lord Shiva: “A large number of youth in India is addict of THC because it is easily available in market,” begins the study. “Here, in this review of effects of cannabis on youth we made an attempt on focusing the main issues that why youth is becoming an doper of marijuana as well as engaging in major criminal activities like drug peddling, violence, sexual assault, rape. In many studies it has been seen that the effects of cannabis makes an individual mentally as well as physically weak. It is a curse for the young generation because of its intake, they are entering in the world of crime in very young age. Usually, marijuana smoked by saints and they call themselves devotee of Lord Shiva.”
Anecdotal evidence suggests reefer madness also causes researchers to write like illiterate five-year-olds.
Medical cannabis is like a bomb: New Times Phoenix said Sheila Polk put “the ‘mad’ in Reefer Madness” when she compared medical cannabis to “explosives.” In a state Supreme Court filing, the prosecutor said hash is not protected by the medical law that says “all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant” may be used. Polk argued, “Chemicals are not ‘parts’ of the plant… [and a court finding that] protects the narcotic drug cannabis would be akin to a finding that explosives produced from fertilizer are protected by laws allowing the sale of farm products.”
Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, you give weed a bad name: Six individuals who died from sudden heart failure had cannabis in their blood, which apparently means reefer causes hearts to stop. All six cases involved pre-existing heart conditions, from “widespread atheromatosis” to enlarged hearts, in addition to issues like needle marks and a fucking car crash, but let’s blame it on cannabis that may have been smoked weeks earlier.
“Cannabis triggered murderous rampage”: Per The West Australian newspaper, “A 23-year old man beat his elderly father to death in his own garden, and then murdered a neighbour in the same way, after a cannabis binge triggered a psychotic breakdown in which he believed voices in his head were telling him to kill.” The medical doctors diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, but clearly it was the reefer.
Cannabis activism can get you shot by a congressman: In 2018, the police arrested cannabis protesters outside the office of Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Baltimore County. Manuel Alvarez Jr. — a conservative county supervisor for a place literally named Goochland — had another idea for dealing with the protesters. He tweeted, “With one reload I can take 34 of them, but my guess is that one will be sufficient.”
Cannabis produces more violence than cocaine and alcohol: 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 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.
Cannabis possession helps justify in-home police shootings: An off-duty officer accidentally entered an apartment she thought was hers and killed the unarmed tenant. The police obtained a warrant within hours, and according to the lawyer for the victim’s family, the department attacked the deceased’s character by saying he had 10.4 grams of cannabis and a grinder. (The story gets a lot stranger from here.)
Supreme Court associates cannabis with sex and strip clubs: In a Supreme Court opinion, accused sexual harasser Clarence Thomas wrote, “Most homeowners do not invite people over to use their living room as a strip club, to have sex in their bedroom, to smoke marijuana inside, and to leave their floors filthy.” Thomas demands you mop the floors after cannabis-fueled sex and stripper parties!
Prohibition is about freedom: A paper titled “The Case for Marijuana Prohibition” says legalizing this “performance-degrading drug” goes against the state’s “interest in protecting the conditions for individual liberty.” So, to prevent cannabis from taking away your freedom, you shouldn’t be free to have cannabis. This firearms-crushing dork says he’s available to lecture on topics like the existence of God, the problem with the “consenting adults” ethic and the case against “homosexual” behavior, gun control and animal rights. He even defends the right of kids to carry guns on campus.
Great balls of fire: In the porn-sounding “Marijuana consumption has a direct deleterious effect on spermatozoa,” Brazilian researchers argue that cannabis consumption involves the “worst overall semen parameters including: sperm concentration, total sperm count, total progressive sperm count, progressive motility, and sperm morphology by both WHO and strict criteria.” Does that mean stoners don’t have to use condoms?
Satan loves sensimilla: In response to debate on legalizing medical cannabis in Uganda, the country’s First Lady “told a recent Cabinet meeting chaired by the President that decriminalising cannabis in Uganda, whether for medical purposes or otherwise, is ‘satanic and will kill the future of our children.'” Apparently she’s heard of the Devil’s Lettuce.
Cannabis-Induced Persistent Depersonalization Derealization Disorder is now a thing: New York researchers say cannabis can make users feel “like an outside observer with respect to one’s thoughts, body, and sensations” and experience “feelings of unreality and detachment from one’s surroundings, such that one’s environment is experienced as remote or unfamiliar.” Ironically, the same symptoms occurred in blue states when Trump became president.
Cannabis causes people to shoot up abortion clinics: Robert Dear reportedly shot up a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, injuring nine people and killing three. News sources reported that he posted several religious rants (e.g., “u wont like hell , jesus is the only hope. satan has blinded u little demon” and “god made the woman out of the mans side sorry but womans lib cant change it”) and SexyAds.com solicitations for “a discreet relationship, Casual sex, BDSM, A long term relationship, Spanking.” However, it was his pro-cannabis posts from more than a decade ago that led reefer madmen to say cannabis made him shoot up the abortion clinic.
Blame cannabis, not the cops: Christine Tatum has linked cannabis to everything from the Boston Marathon bombing to the Columbine shooting, yet her hubby Christian Thurstone (the whitest name ever?) reached a new low with a post about Michael Brown having cannabis in his blood work. Brown was the 18-year-old African American shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri a few years back. Per Thurstone in a now-deleted post, “Brown’s death also should serve as a tragic reminder that marijuana is not harmless, that it is not just like alcohol that its consumption often leads to impairment that is very difficult for the public to measure — also making it tough for the public to hold users accountable for the harm they’ve caused others. Marijuana users also could be vulnerable to aggression and attacks while under the drug’s influence.”
Take a puff out of crime: Vicky Hartzler, a right-wing Missouri congresswoman who once compared transgender soliders to ISIS, suggested cannabis legalization caused the crime rate in Colorado to increase 11-times faster than the rest of the country. Yes, crime rates did rise in Colorado, but the likely causes include the opioid epidemic, lower police staffing, income inequality, population increases and a return to normal crime levels after a brief dip. This chart shows that violent crime is down substantially compared to previous decades. For example, 308 and 318 violent crimes per 100,000 residents took place in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Before 2010, you must go back to the 1960s to see averages that low, with the Reagan-Bush years averaging 503 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.
Infused lollipops have no heart: A 70-year-old man with coronary artery disease consumed a lollipop with 70mg of THC and later experienced “crushing chest pain.” The researchers blamed the cardiac event on the “anxiety and fearful hallucinations” that occurred within 30 minutes of consuming the edible. The study said the man wasn’t familiar with the time-delayed effects of edibles, but the doctors who said the lollipop caused hallucinations within 30 minutes are obviously super familiar.
Drug dealers make cannabis addictive: Pete Sessions, the former Texas congressman and committee chair, did more to block progressive cannabis legislation than anyone in the government. He actually believes that growers/dealers purposely make cannabis more addictive so they can move more plants. “Marijuana is an addictive product, and the merchants of addiction make it that way,” said the man many considered one of Congress’ dimmest bulbs. “They make it for addiction. They make it to where our people, our young people, become addicted to marijuana and keep going.”
Too stoned to hang yourself: Dr. Brad Roberts tells modern tales of reefer madness from the emergency room. In a 2017 opinion piece with a stolen Shutterstock photo, he describes how it took an entire group of security guards to subdue a teen girl after she dabbed and that a young man failed at hanging himself three times because “he had been smoking marijuana ‘all day, every day.'” The Brigham Young alum also said cannabis likely caused a fivefold increase in homelessness in Colorado, though he provided no explanation for the fivefold increase in the size of his teeth.