This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

Marihuana (1936)

The trailer to 1936's Marihuana—a morality tale about a young girl turning to drugs and destroying her life—promises so much.

"Weird parties!"

"Wild Diversion!"

"Unleashed passions!"

"A sensitive young girl made brittle by Marihuana!" (See the full film here).

Whether classroom films or feature-length mortality tales, movies about the dangers of marijuana have a long history of depicting the drug's effects in cartoonish terms. Here are four examples. 

Marihuana (1936)

The trailer to 1936's Marihuana—a morality tale about a young girl turning to drugs and destroying her life—promises so much.

"Weird parties!"

"Wild Diversion!"

"Unleashed passions!"

"A sensitive young girl made brittle by Marihuana!" (See the full film here).

Reefer Madness (1937)

Reefer Madness is the quintessential marijuana propaganda film. It follows a group of teens who get hooked on marijuana—dubbed "the burning weed with its roots in hell"—and then face outlandish consequences. They have premarital sex, commit murder and suicide, and achieve a permanent state of "hopeless insanity." What a fun time at the movies this must have been! (See the full film here).

The Terrible Truth (1951)

Phyllis Howard was an all-American senior in high school: So how did she end up a heroin addict, and in the narcotic ward of the county jail? Marijuana. 

"I guess I knew about reefers—that's marijuana—ever since junior high," Phyllis narrates in this 1951 Sid Davis film made for California classrooms. (Davis was also famous for Boys Beware, an educational film for boys about the evils of homosexuality). But then she met Jim and Bob, whose wholesome-sounding names beguile their dark characters. As Phyllis explains, "Both smoked pot—that's jive talk for marijuana." Soon after, she was hooked.

"It's funny what it does to you," she says of being high. "Everything speeds up to 100 miles per hour. You think you're real sharp and you laugh a lot. You think that you are the biggest person in the world"—until that world come crashing down around you. Phyllis's pot use leads her to drug dealers, who then introduce her to heroin. And her life then unravels. (See the full film here).

Marijuana (1968)

Sonny Bono (yes, that one) narrated this educational anti-marijuana film in 1968 (odd considering that he appears onscreen wearing what looks like golden silk pajamas).

The video opens with the scene of a police raid on a marijuana party. As revelers are apprehended by police, they shout to the camera all the reasons why they think pot should be legal. "Grass isn't habit-forming like alcohol," shouts one. "There's nothing wrong with grass; do it 1000 times and you'll never go to harder drugs!" says another. 

Throughout the rest of the film, Bono counters their arguments. 

"At this time, there are no known damaging physical effects from the use of marijuana," Bono admits. "But, unlike alcohol, when you take too much at one time, you don't pass out. You more than likely run the risk of an unpredictable and unpleasant bummer."

Here's what that "bummer" looks like, according to the film. (Apparently, literal instant zombification is a side effect of pot.) See the full film here

Reefer Madness (1937)

Reefer Madness is the quintessential marijuana propaganda film. It follows a group of teens who get hooked on marijuana—dubbed "the burning weed with its roots in hell"—and then face outlandish consequences. They have premarital sex, commit murder and suicide, and achieve a permanent state of "hopeless insanity." What a fun time at the movies this must have been! (See the full film here).

The Terrible Truth (1951)

Phyllis Howard was an all-American senior in high school: So how did she end up a heroin addict, and in the narcotic ward of the county jail? Marijuana. 

"I guess I knew about reefers—that's marijuana—ever since junior high," Phyllis narrates in this 1951 Sid Davis film made for California classrooms. (Davis was also famous for Boys Beware, an educational film for boys about the evils of homosexuality). But then she met Jim and Bob, whose wholesome-sounding names beguile their dark characters. As Phyllis explains, "Both smoked pot—that's jive talk for marijuana." Soon after, she was hooked.

"It's funny what it does to you," she says of being high. "Everything speeds up to 100 miles per hour. You think you're real sharp and you laugh a lot. You think that you are the biggest person in the world"—until that world come crashing down around you. Phyllis's pot use leads her to drug dealers, who then introduce her to heroin. And her life then unravels. (See the full film here).

Marijuana (1968)

Sonny Bono (yes, that one) narrated this educational anti-marijuana film in 1968 (odd considering that he appears onscreen wearing what looks like golden silk pajamas).

The video opens with the scene of a police raid on a marijuana party. As revelers are apprehended by police, they shout to the camera all the reasons why they think pot should be legal. "Grass isn't habit-forming like alcohol," shouts one. "There's nothing wrong with grass; do it 1000 times and you'll never go to harder drugs!" says another. 

Throughout the rest of the film, Bono counters their arguments. 

"At this time, there are no known damaging physical effects from the use of marijuana," Bono admits. "But, unlike alcohol, when you take too much at one time, you don't pass out. You more than likely run the risk of an unpredictable and unpleasant bummer."

Here's what that "bummer" looks like, according to the film. (Apparently, literal instant zombification is a side effect of pot.) See the full film here

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.