Weed Week

The Return of Reefer Madness in the GOP

Certain politicians and pundits are living in a 1930s fantasy world.


Consider the following. You're sitting there, minding your own business at the five-and-dime, when a shady character approaches you with promises of a good time. "How good," you ask? "Really good," he responds. You're intrigued. Against your better judgment, you follow him tepidly as he escorts you through town into a dark building that leads to an even darker basement. Down, down, down you descend as the air becomes increasingly shriek- and skunk-ridden. You've arrived.

He holds out his hand and in it reveals a promise fulfilled: It's that smelly green flower, the key to a wild ride. It's the reefer

"Why me?" you wonder. You, so unassuming in that blue bow-tie, those pleated khaki pants, those brown brogues! This isn't supposed to happen to people who wear light blue argyle sweater vests. You have limited time to mull your fate before a group of scantily-clad people slink out from the smoky billows—the screaming now makes sense. You're suddenly surrounded, mostly by shirtless men in Speedos. How strange, you think. 

"Smoke the marijuana," says the token bottle blonde, her lips red and her lingerie green, the latter a fitting homage to Mary Jane. "Sail the sea of sin."

You oblige. You trade in that bow-tie for a bare neck, take a deep inhale, and the rest is history: You black out, lose your mind, accidentally kill a pedestrian while driving your car, and grapple with the fact that your dream of becoming a wholesome swing dance instructor is now over. You don a disguise and get out of dodge.

If that story arc sounds familiar, it might be because it's the plot, loosely rendered, of Reefer Madness—the 1936 propaganda film meant to scare kids away from smoking weed—which was later spoofed into a 2005 musical of the same name. It also might be because Newsmax host Greg Kelly allegedly went through a very similar experience and lived to tell the tale.

"SMOKING WEED (aka GRASS) is NOT a good idea," he tweeted late last month. "I've tried it (back in the day) and it was WORSE than anything that happened to HUNTER BIDEN. I 'toked up' with some buddies in Kentucky and woke up 4 days later in Nairobi, Kenya. With no idea what happened. DON'T DO DRUGS."

Relatable. Was that where our main character went into hiding?

Kelly's tweet does not appear to be facetious. That leads this writer to two possible conclusions. The first option: He was given something other than weed and hopefully ditched that crowd after returning from his African voyage. The second: He's drumming up another Reefer Madness-y panic to scare his followers away from weed.

Pot panic is experiencing a sort of resurgence these days, not just with Kelly, but also among somewhat mainstream politicians. Yet this gambit requires a whole lot of imagination, particularly at a time when people are waking up to the deleterious effects posed by the drug war and an overburdened criminal justice system.

"We have a drug problem in Virginia, and legalizing marijuana will only lead to more marijuana overdoses and deaths," said state Sen. Amanda Chase (R–Amelia County), who is running for the state's highest office. "Democrats want more marijuana deaths. As your governor I would never allow marijuana to be legalized."

Exactly which deaths Chase was referencing remains unclear. In May 2019, a coroner in LaPlace, Louisiana, reported that a woman died from too much THC—the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. It was deemed what could have been the first marijuana overdose death in the history of the U.S., even though some experts refuted that as the cause.

"We know from really good survey data that Americans use cannabis products billions of times a year, collectively. Not millions of times, but billions of times a year," Keith Humphreys, formerly a senior policy adviser at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told Nola.com. He noted that coroners sometimes blame a death on a drug found in the system when there is no other obviously apparent reason. "If the risk of death was one in a million, we would have a couple thousand cannabis overdose deaths a year."

We don't. Contrast that with alcohol use, which is responsible for hundreds of deaths per day

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, upped the ante in March: "If you legalize marijuana, you're gonna kill your kids," he said at an event for Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a group that does not deserve its name. "That's what the data shows from around the country." Ricketts may have lifted his data from Reefer Madness.

More clear, however, is that the drug war incentivizes actual violence, with sellers unable to litigate anything in court. Black markets encourage the proliferation of more dangerous drugs being passed off as things they're not, and give law enforcement the excuse to seize assets from people for no discernible purpose (with little recourse available to those people). Police also possess wide latitude to exercise deadly force against individuals wrapped up in such victimless crimes.

For the skeptic: Remember how well Prohibition—which outlawed a much more statistically lethal substance—worked out? In that same vein, violent crime in Baltimore decreased 20 percent between March 2020 and March 2021 after the city decriminalized drug use and prostitution. During the same period, crime skyrocketed nationwide. 

No one is asking that Chase, Ricketts, and Kelly endorse the morality or prudence of drug use (that's for us to do). But they should still contend with real information in the real world, as opposed to tugging constituents back to a fictional one complete with more paranoia than you could ever have from lighting up a blunt.

NEXT: Can Schools Punish Kids for Off-Campus Snapchats?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “SMOKING WEED (aka GRASS) is NOT a good idea,” he tweeted late last month. “I’ve tried it (back in the day) and it was WORSE than anything that happened to HUNTER BIDEN. I ‘toked up’ with some buddies in Kentucky and woke up 4 days later in Nairobi, Kenya. With no idea what happened. DON’T DO DRUGS.”

    How did he manage to get a passport and a visa to enter Kenya in less than 4 days while too high to have any idea what was going on.

    Something is fishy with this story.

    1. I wonder if this actually happen or if he saw it in a movie like “The Hangover”.

      1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its SDF earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this page…..VISIT HERE

    2. Pretty obvious. He was high on the marijuana’s when he wrote it.

    3. He was so high, he like, flew there man.

  2. “Democrats want more marijuana deaths.”

    This is the stupidest thing I have every read. How many marijuana deaths have there been per years? Drugs like alcohol and cigarette kill people all the time. Read the newspapers and obituaries. Car accidents, cirrhosis, lung cancer all the time. How many people people die from marijuana.

    Ever look at marijuana over dose treatment? Keep the person safe and hydrate to clear the drug.

    1. It usually is a coin flip for me with a Republican saying something stupid if they’re doing it just because they know their base is dumb enough to believe it or if they truly believe it.

      1. Only republicans say stupid things, according to the idiot above.

        1. It’s a combination of stupid and mean with Republicans. With Democrats it’s the occasional stupid.

          1. You are a fucking moron. Did you see Maxine Waters this weekend, calling for riots over a dead Junkie? What about AOC, Dipshit? Al Green? How about the entire pack of morons that runs Chicago and Illinois? They are all assholes, both sides, you just identify with certain assholes. Pull your head out of your ass.

          2. “With Democrats it’s the occasional stupid”

            They’re too busy being evil I suppose.

        2. I don’t know if it is an “only” thing but Republicans seem to lead in this area. Note last weeks plan for a “white only caucus”. Some others;

          “Trade wars are easy to win”

          “Health care is hard”

          “The pandemic will be over in weeks”

          Just to name a few.

          1. Yes, we should be listening to Grammy winner Cuomo or Gavin Newsome. They are brilliant. New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, those are the are the places to be, right? Did you happen to notice the massive migration out of those states?
            Try a little basic ground truth. Call UHaul and do a quick price comparison. Follow that up with a check on real estate trends and commercial real estate vacancies. Start with downtown Chicago.

          2. Well hell, of course it would be whites only — all the other colors have gone off to the Democrat sponsored “no whites” events!

          3. Health care is easy remove all government from it

            The pandemic was over in weeks, progtards used it as an excuse to seize even more power

    2. “This is the stupidest thing I have every read. How many marijuana deaths have there been per years?”

      I don’t know, but if it’s not 420, I’ll be terribly disappointed.

  3. Could we see a return to Reason by these ‘woke’ bloggers, like Binion?

  4. SMOKING WEED (aka GRASS) is NOT a good idea,” he tweeted late last month. “I’ve tried it (back in the day) and it was WORSE than anything that happened to HUNTER BIDEN. I ‘toked up’ with some buddies in Kentucky and woke up 4 days later in Nairobi, Kenya. With no idea what happened. DON’T DO DRUGS.

    {Snicker} What did that guy take? And where can I get some?

    Ah, well, as a libertarian normally I would point this out as example 1,543,765 of why the GOP isn’t good for anything, but I’ve learned from Ken that this is me being uppity and elitist. Real AMERICANS don’t care about getting a vape pen after they go shopping for avocados and coffee. Real Americans are concerned about Twitter bans and whether you can buy a gun that holds 12 bullets instead of 8. I’ve learned Ken. I’ve learned.

  5. Meanwhile, Democrats are all in favor of legalizing marijuana – as long as the state gets its cut. They don’t give a shit what you do as long as you’re willing to pay for the privilege.

    1. In my state, you can grow your own. No license needed. You can have 6 plants for every member of your household of age. It is splendid living in the land of the free.

      1. Six plants. That’s freedom? You have low expectations.

        1. I am a Horticulturalist. How many plants do you think that I need? My local government leaves us alone to do as we wish. Is that not freedom? Then what is? Prohibition?

          1. They’ll leave you alone until you have 7 plants.

          2. What does need have to do with anything? Apply the same lack of logic to carrots. Since when is any government authorized to regulate the growing of plants?

          3. Having more than 6 plants is really easy to do, particularly when they come in there and count all your little clones, or male seedlings. I mean my little operation was pretty small, but I might have had up to 4 flowering, a couple of mother plants, 8 seedlings in the cloner.

            As far as I am concerned, it has never been any of the government’s business what plants, or how many, that I might choose to grow.

    2. Except the President and Vice Prosecutor.

  6. V.P. Harris used to love putting people in jail to save them from the evils of pot. Maybe someone should ask her about it, if anyone knows where she is.

    1. She’s secretly being President, oh wait, that was last month’s delusional rightwing crybaby complaint.

      1. I’m pretty sure the complaint is she’s as big a puppet as Joe, with the difference being that Joe is basically Weekend At Bernie’s tier now.

      2. Yeah the delusion shared by Biden who refers to president harris

    2. She just made a statement about her absence. She has been at a music festival, Tupac is the headliner.

      1. I went to that one! The hendrix Elvis duet was amazing

  7. I took a vape hit of some prime cannabis oil about a year ago. It was the first time I thought I was going to die from drugs. My heart was racing at an extremely elevated rate. Took over a hour for it to return to normal. Today’s marijuana isn’t the same stuff I smoked 20 years ago. Since then I only smoke flower. And I make sure Its not the extremely powerful variants they’re selling today. There is something to this.

    1. Do you only drink 3.2 beer as well? Or is that “too strong”?

    2. Being scared (anxious) for an hour while tripping isn’t the same as waking up in Kenya four days later.

      1. I’m no newbie. I wasn’t just “anxious” while tripping. I thought my heart was going to explode. This wasn’t reefer madness. Its reality…But fine, scoff all you want. Me? I will never smoke anything other than mother nature. All these oils, edibles, shards, and whatever concentrated nonsense they’re coming up with will never touch my lips. Is that okay with you?

    3. Look up how they make that crap. It is processed. The active ingredients are stripped with a solvent. It is concentrated. It is like doing shots of Everclear and expecting to have a mellow beer buzz. Those “vape pens” are filled with it. There is all kinds of crap in it.
      The weed hasn’t changed. It has been bred for better taste, higher yields and and for looks. It is better than the stuff shipped in bricks from Mexico that you had in the 70s, but it is still just cannabis. The big difference is what it is being sprayed with. Legal pot is inspected, but there is a long list of pesticides allowed.
      If you grow your own in small batches, you will know exactly what is used.

      1. “It has been bred for better taste”

        I wish my neighbor three houses upwind would by that stuff. The smell of his rotten skunk permeates the neighborhood for hours on weekend afternoons in the summer.

        1. He is probably using a closed CO2 system and off-gassing without a CO2 scrubber. It does stink. He is a moron. That will bring the armed weed thieves if they get a whiff. Like anything else, there will be assholes that don’t consider the people around them.
          They had that problem in Denver for a while. They made them stop. It is all new and regulations will follow soon enough.

      2. That’s why I’m sticking to good ole Mother Nature. I just want to chill out at the end of the day. I don’t need a heart attack.

  8. “SMOKING WEED (aka GRASS) is NOT a good idea,” he tweeted late last month. “I’ve tried it (back in the day) and it was WORSE than anything that happened to HUNTER BIDEN. I ‘toked up’ with some buddies in Kentucky and woke up 4 days later in Nairobi, Kenya. With no idea what happened. DON’T DO DRUGS.”

    BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!! That’s fucking hilarious!

  9. > I ‘toked up’ with some buddies in Kentucky and woke up 4 days later in Nairobi, Kenya.

    That’s nothing! Once I toked up and four days later I found myself in Thailand in a bathtub full of ice and… I was a gender-fluid she-male. Geez, that weed to nasty it makes you identify as something weird. Also, I was missing my left kidney.

  10. violent crime in Baltimore decreased 20 percent between March 2020 and March 2021 after the city decriminalized drug use and prostitution. During the same period, crime skyrocketed nationwide.



  11. >>more marijuana overdoses and deaths

    so then, one? lol

  12. “If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids…”

    Reminds me of the stupidest Facebook post ever, posted around a year ago by one of my leftist friends:

    “If you don’t wear a mask, you will die.”

  13. I hear more of this abstinence bullshit from democrats these days, mostly white women. Modern donkey democrats are illiberal and authoritarian shits.

  14. Uh guys, the Amanda Chase tweet is a parody account, NOT the real Amanda Chase. Please do better research next time.

    1. That’s not how it works around here. Narratives, it’s all about narratives.

  15. If Trump had legalized weed he would have won.

    1. No he wouldn’t have.

      1. OK if he had legalized weed and the Democrats hadn’t cheated.

  16. If EVER a story cried out for the Both Sides treatment….but, No. Reason is still Lefty apologist

  17. Ever noticed how the Canadians on South Park have some anatomical irregularities and odd behavior? That’s the legal Reefer, it’s changed us.

  18. – marijuana should be legal, as should all drugs, including heroin. Do your own research. Take your own responsibilities.
    – people who do stupid things on drugs should be held fully accountable, including paying for its attendant medical costs.
    – marijuana psychosis is a real thing, and is destroying an increasing number of lives, per the NIH. It’s not pretty.
    – inhaling smoke from marijuana is unhealthy for your lungs. Duh.
    – THC levels are an order of magnitude higher than what they used to be.
    – That we went from pooping on people for cigarettes to turning a complete, blind eye to marijuana smoking is kind of sad. (Good luck trying to tell the dude next door to stop smoking beneath your window. No it’s not a f*cking entitlement, but trends dictate that we act like it is.)
    – Getting high every day is a sign you may be a loser.

  19. The reason libertarians have always been a meme is because they put principles before reality. Recreational drug use should be legal, but what would happen tomorrow if it was legalized?

    A legal drug market wouldn’t emerge from nowhere. It would take time. It would still compete with the black market. It would still fund cartels and terrorist organizations. It would still be unregulated and rife with medical risk, risk that we presently expect taxpayers to mitigate. Drug legalization should happen, but it’s irresponsible to rush the process and libertarians have been useless in offering any policy to make this principle reality.

    I still remember that clip of some speaker being booed because he was concerned about selling hard drugs to minors.

  20. The first time I ever “toked up” I thought everything was funny and ate all the junk food in the house! Man, all this talk about it is making me wanna get high! lol

  21. Violent crime always decreases when non-violent acts are decriminalized. Law is not reason, it is violence. People resent being forced, especially when the “law enforcer” is acting immorally, e.g., being invasive and violating rights. It’s only logical.

Please to post comments