THE REEFER MADNESS ERA
During the Reefer Madness Era
“Who so ever shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
But who so ever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it would be better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” – Jesus Christ
EDUCATIONAL PROPAGANDA (during the Reefer Madness Era)
REEFER MADNESS ERA
[MUSEUM COMMENTS ON THE GREAT CONTROVERSY]
One thing that surprises most students of the Reefer Madness dis-information campaign is just how few children’s school textbooks there were on the Evils of Marihuana. Something that given the magnitude and viciousness of the hysteria campaign strikes many in an odd way. And begs the question, Why?
WARNING: Much of the following is opinion, BUT it is opinion based upon the facts. Also note that these opinions ARE subject to change as new documents and facts come along. As an example, the following was at one time included on our past websites:
These statements have now been changed to reflect the fact that THERE WAS indeed a great deal of interest in the subject. AND that educator’s DID INDEED wish to include Reefer Madness education in their curriculum.
Education records from the 1930’s show that:
(What one can only term) A general and total lack of local interest in the subject
After all one would think that there should be hundreds and hundreds of them. And wasn't the alleged reason for outlawing medical marihuana; "to protect America's youth against the "Assassin of Youth"? Weren't the most unscrupulous drug peddlers lurking around schoolyards trying to lure youngsters into trying a "new kind of cigarette with an extra kick in it"? So why then weren't school officials demanding more and more reference materials on the subject? In the words of America's first drug czar, Harry Anslinger:
"There should be campaigns of education in every school, so that children will not be deceived by the wiles of peddlers, but will know of the insanity, the disgrace, the horror which marijuana can bring to its victims." – (Readers Digest, Feb 1938)
So what happened? Why weren't teachers and educators in the lead against the evil, "Weed of Madness?" Perhaps part of the answer can be found in the following newspaper article, which ran under the following headline:
"INSANITY, DEGENERACY AND VIOLENCE FOLLOW USE OF WEED"
It seems that the marihuana problems and Irish fairies had a lot in common. They were always to be found, one campfire down the road, or in some town in another state, but not here. No one locally seemed to be grabbing an axe and killing people while under its fiendish influence. Humm!
"South Beloit School Acquaints Pupils with Dangers"
" . . . Principal J. H. McNeel of the Beloit High School said that there is no marijuana problem in the local High School, and that no special instructions have been given Beloit high school pupils about the effects of the drug. . . . "I have no knowledge that any of the pupils have come in contact with that type of cigarette or that any have been sold in Beloit," McNeel said. "I have never talked with a boy or girl I had reason to suspect had contact with that type of cigarette." . . . Like McNeel, Principal Lienhard of South Beloit declared that so far as he knows none of his pupils has used marijuana or has been solicited to purchase it. . . . Chief of Detectives Herbert A. Schultz of the police department said that he is investigating a report about a suspected marijuana vendor here. Schultz does not think that the narcotic can be used here to any extent. "If it were being sold in wholesale quantities, somebody would be getting violent," he said. " -- BELOIT (WI) DAILY NEWS - Feb. 10, 1938 p1
What educational records from the 1930's that the museum has been able to obtain basically show a total lack of:
However, despite all this the evidence also seems to show that there was indeed a great interest in the subject among educators. As well as a desire to include the subject of Evil Medical Marihuana in their school curriculums.
- Marihuana peddlers lurking around (their local) school yards,
- Any of their students running amok under its influence, and
- Little if any crimes being committed by their students (while under the influence of Medical Marihuana)
The following letter (from the Sapulpa, Ok., P.T.A.), provides us with a good example. [NOTE that the big crime they are talking about is that a farmer was caught growing some plants in the area and nothing more.]
Which once more brings up the question; Why so few Reefer Madness textbooks? Given the intensity of the hysteria campaign and the interest level on the subject one would naturally expect for there to have been hundreds upon hundreds of them. Yet this museum has only been able to locate about a dozen of them; Why?
The answer(s) of course are very complex but can be simplified if one looks at the following factors:
THE OZZIE AND HARRIET MYTH *
The myth goes something like this: At one time our public schools existed in what is now known as a "Father Knows Best" society. A world where everyone lived like "Ozzie and Harriet." Where there was no such thing as spousal abuse, rape, child molestation, drugs etc., and so there was NO NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE SUBJECT, AND certainly NOT in our PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
But the myth was just that ---a myth. The reality was that our public school systems have always been a political hotbed of politicized intrigue since the very beginning. As an example, in 1882 Vermont passed a law requiring their schools to teach about the harmful effects of alcohol and narcotics on the human body. Within five years nine other State legislatures (using it as a model) had adopted similar laws.
One need only look at how many textbooks on the subjects of hygiene, alcohol and narcotics existed during the 1930’s and 40’s to disprove the myth. Thus the concept of myopia can safely be ruled out.
[* NOTE: Ozzie and Harriet were a television couple (era 1960’s) that lived in a perfect world, were everyone had enough to eat, and everyone lived a middle class life, etc. ]
THE VENEREAL DISEASE FACTOR:
This concept is very simply. Venereal diseases were passed via sexual contact, sex was dirty; therefore we ought to not talk about it -- not even to educate the public about the subject. And while this might seem a bit counterproductive to us today, back in the 1930’s there were scores of moralistic groups that felt this way.
These groups, which back then had a lot of political influence, naturally opposed any attempt by the public schools to teach young children about the sex crazing cigarette.
THE BUREAU OF NARCOTICS FACTOR:
One other factor however, was a bit more sinister. It appears that Harry Anslinger (America’s first drug czar and originator of the anti-Medical Marihuana laws) himself deliberately sabotaged the whole effort.
This statement might seem a bit contradictory, after all wasn’t he the one who had orchestrated the Reefer Madness campaign. And wasn’t he the one who had said that, "There should be campaigns of education in every school, so that children . . . will know of the insanity, the disgrace, the horror which marijuana can bring." Additionally (as he was making his living off the “War on Drugs”) wouldn’t it be in his interest, to feed his lies to schoolchildren?
However, this museum has been able to obtain documents showing that he actually felt the opposite. That in fact he was opposed to narcotics education all together.
As proof, let us look at the controversy surrounding a narcotics education program being instituted by the City of New York. The following bit’s and pieces are ALL taken from the publication – “The Menace of Narcotics to the Children of New York,” – note that nothing is taken out of context:
THE MENACE OF NARCOTICS
TO THE CHILDREN OF NEW YORK
(A Plan to Eradicate the Evil)
Page 20 - (part) D. Prevention and Education
. . . “Our Committee took the position that while treatment facilities were urgently needed, it was imperative that there be developed a program that would place major emphasis on prevention. We were unwilling to accept use of narcotics by teen-age youth as a part of our urban community living. In March of 1951 we sought assistance from United States Commissioner of Narcotics, Harry J. Anlinger, in the development of a program of education. We were advised by Mr. Anslinger that the immediate need in New York was not education, but "a quarantine ordinance which would confine these users in a controlled ward of the city hospitals until they are pronounced cured by medical authorities. As long as they are on the streets they spread addiction and "contaminate others like a person who has smallpox. Association with other addicts is the chief [page 21] cause of drug addiction.” The Commissioner stated that an educational program would only arouse curiosity among young people and stimulate them to experiment with narcotic drugs. . .
At about the same time a similar letter from the Federal Commissioner had been addressed to Dr. Clare C. Baldwin, Assistant Superintendent of Schools and the Board of Education's representative on the Council’s Committee, in response to his request for suggestions. Dr. Baldwin's paper, "The Problem of Adolescent Drug Addiction -- Prevention Through Education",* presented at a conference on March 8, 1951 arranged by the Board of Education for administrative personnel of the school system, rejected the position of the Federal Commissioner. He urged the institution of a program of education in every 8-year elementary, junior and senior high school in the city "which will include instruction in the approaches which are made to children, the conditions under which it may be encountered, and the tragic consequences of the use of drugs." Dr. Baldwin stated further that "The time for a direct educational assault on the problem has come." This approach of Dr. Baldwin's reinforced the position which the Committee had taken in February, 1951 when it transmitted to the Superintendent of Schools the following recommendation:
It is recommended that the Superintendent of Schools and the Board of Education set up immediately a unit of study on all appropriate levels in the public school system to acquaint students with information concerning the physical, moral and social effects of the use of drugs, how addiction occurs, and to develop proper attitudes and habits among the youth in relation to the present problem of the use of narcotics by teen-agers.
Another step that the Committee took very early in its activities was to determine the kind of available community groups that could be effective in promoting an educational program beyond that which it considered to be the . . .
[page 36] APPENDIX D
. . . On February 27, I addressed a letter to Mr. H. J. Anslinger, United States Commissioner of Narcotics, as follows:
“My dear Commissioner:
"No doubt, you know that there has been a shocking increase in the number of adolescent drug users in the New York community. This has taken place over the past few months. We are considering launching a campaign of public information and direct education on the narcotics problem in the junior and senior high schools of this city.
"I am aware of the official attitude toward this approach which has been taken by your Bureau in the past. I wonder what your position would be today, in view of the mounting tide of adolescent addiction.
"Will you be good enough to give me your advice?
Very truly yours,
(Signed) CLARE C. BALDWIN
. . . On March 2, Commissioner Anslinger replied as follows:
"Dear Mr. Baldwin:
This letter represents the official attitude that has dominated this subject, and has resulted almost in its exclusion from educational analysis and attack. It is similar to the kind of thinking which for years kept cancer, tuberculosis, or venereal disease out of public view. Very frankly, in my opinion the Commissioner's arguments are specious and contrary to all of our evidence.
"I have your letter dated February 27, 1951, in relation to the increase in the number of adolescent drug users in New York City and note that you are considering launching a campaign of public information and direct education on the narcotics problem in the junior and, senior high schools.
"I have just returned from Detroit where we conducted a number of raids involving narcotic peddlers who were selling drugs to teen-age hoodlums. There were about 75 persons under 21 who testified before the Grand Jury, and I understand that in all but a few cases the young people were not going to school of any kind. In one or two cases, as soon as the addiction started, the pupil dropped out of school immediately.
"The heroin user must obtain between $6 and $15 a day to maintain addiction. This amount is obtained through criminal activities, and it is therefore impossible for the youth to continue school attendance.
"I still endorse the stand taken by the Opium Advisory Committee some years ago, which gave the matter of anti-narcotic education and propaganda full and impartial consideration •••••••••••••• (For brevity, I am omitting several paragraphs which refer to the international situation.)
"The immediate need in New York is not education but a quarantine ordinance which would confine these users in a controlled ward of a city hospital until they are pronounced cured by medical authorities. As long as they are on the streets they spread addiction and contaminate others like a person who has smallpox. Association with other addicts is the chief cause of drug addiction.
"Another urgent need is the passage of the enclosed Amendment to the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act to provide minimum sentences of five years for second offenders who sell narcotics.
"These two actions will do more to curb addiction than an educational program, which will only arouse curiosity. We find that most young people who have become addicted, acquired this evil habit not because of ignorance of consequences, but rather because they had learned too much about the effects of drugs. When young people gather and talk about the horrors of narcotics, addiction usually follows because of the tendency to try it for a thrill. Warning does not deter them, it merely places it in their thoughts.
"We have grave doubts as to the advisability of the course of action you are considering.
Very truly yours,
(Signed) H. J. ANSLINGER
U. S. Commissioner of Narcotics"
. . . Furthermore, to characterize as "hoodlums", with the implication that they are somehow unimportant anyway, the dozens of boys and girls in this city who have become victims of this curse puts too light a value on their lives. . . But more important is the evidence controverting(sic) the Commissioner's statement that, "We find that most young people who have become addicted, acquired this evil habit not because of ignorance of consequences, but rather because they had learned too much about the effects of drugs". . . . .
The simple truth is that most of these youngsters took the initial step with only an experimental curiosity to learn what the effects would be, and all of them were abysmally ignorant of the ultimate consequences. I can never be persuaded it was anything but ignorance --- ignorance of the general public and the victims alike --- which accounts for what has happened.
It is my considered opinion that the time for a direct educational assault on this problem has come. There is also the reason of common sense which compels it. We do not avoid marking a thin spot on the ice of a skating pond because we fear some daredevil may be lured to try it. Nor do we avoid teaching a small child the dangers of fire because he may become an arsonist. . . .
As can be ascertained from the above example, ‘Drug Education’ programs were indeed extremely controversial and politically charged even back then. In fact some can say that they were even being sabotaged. Just look at the words of Harry Anslinger (America's first drug czar) written before the passage of the anti-Medical Marihuana law:
"There should be campaigns of education in every school, so that children will not be deceived by the wiles of peddlers."
Yet as we have seen, his words quickly changed AFTER the passage of the anti-Medical Marihuana laws.
(During The Reefer Madness Era)
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