Trippy animation, TV stars, and a whole heap of scaremongering: vintage weed PSAs are truly astonishing.
“Just bought legal recreational weed because I could, and I don’t even smoke. What a time to be alive!” So said a friend of mine on Facebook last year, in the midst of a trip to Colorado. Indeed, as more and more states vote to legalize recreational marijuana (so far: Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, California, Massachusetts, Washington, and D.C.), we are witnessing the biggest shift in legal intoxicants since Prohibition was overturned.
It’s easy to forget the fervent opposition to cannabis that mainstream American culture hung onto for much of the 20th Century. Scaremongering and misinformation about Mary Jane was spread far and wide for decades, despite its ongoing popularity with happy hippies, crazy kids, and a ton of other law-defying citizens.
The first example of weed-worry writ large was 1936’s now-cult-classic, Reefer Madness — a movie so positively hysterical that everyone in it who comes into any contact with weed whatsoever suffers the most dire consequences. There’s a hit and run, a suicide, a fatal shooting, an attempted rape, a savage beating involving a poker, regretful humping, and, oh but of course, the type of memory loss that can land you in prison. In between all that weed-induced madness, there is manic dancing, episodes of playing the piano far too quickly, general Gollum-like behavior, and, best of all, concerned adults with straight faces saying things like: “Under the influence of the drug, he killed his entire family with an axe.”
If you believe the content of Reefer Madness, then marijuana is more dangerous on its own than combining crack, meth, and LSD would be. The whole movie is available to view on YouTube, but save yourself some time and just check out the trailer:
The 1950s approach to discouraging people from using weed mostly involved committing full tilt to the idea that smoking marijuana would almost certainly lead to a life of heroin addiction. 1958’s High School Confidential featured a stark warning: “If you flake around with the weed, you’ll end up using the harder stuff.”
A PSA from the same decade titled Drug Addiction followed a similar track, firmly setting up marijuana as a gateway drug. Watch between 6:52 and 8:25 to enjoy one of the most clean-cut heroin addicts in history explaining to a judge that he smoked marijuana for “4 or 5 months” before immediately jumping headfirst into junkie-dom.
By the 1960s, probably sensing that they were losing the youth battle, PSAs made vague attempts to be moderately more balanced. In Keep Off the Grass, we see a young man named Tom having a variety of sensible discussions with grown ups and questioning his peers. He starts out his PSA journey saying things to his Dad like: “It’s easy for you to stand there with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other and tell us not to blow pot!”
This being a PSA though, Tom’s journey takes a turn pretty quickly, and ultimately, the overarching message becomes clear: “Every time you blow a marijuana cigarette, you take a chance on blowing your future.” In the end, arguably the greatest thing about the 20-minute clip is the coining of the term “Psychedelicatessen,” in reference to a head shop….
Continued via… Source: The Insane World of Vintage Anti-Marijuana PSAs | KQED Pop | KQED Arts