In the first installment of this series, I discussed Reefer Madness in reference to the fact that the original was a piece of exploitative propaganda. In this installment, I want to talk about another bit of social perniciousness, what I call the "do-gooder" movement.
As I pointed out, Reefer Madness was originally produced by a church group as a morality play to inform parents about the supposed "evils" contained in marijuana. When Dwain Esper purchased the film rights, he changed it from a morality tale to an over the top bit of film propaganda. Clearly, the intent of this film was to make something happen. That something was the prohibition of marijuana. It can be argued, and quite successfully, that Reefer Madness, and a few other exploitation films just like it were some of the tools used to institute marijuana prohibition.
The obvious question comes up: why would the people who produced these films been so interested in the prohibition of marijuana? The answer is simple, somewhere down the line; someone learned that if you turn an issue of personal choice into a moral issue, it is a lot easier to get a moral issue prohibited than a personal choice.
On the surface, this question is seemingly answered by constant barrage of anti-pot ads (propaganda) that remain as "public service announcements". While it is clearly true that certain illicit drugs (as well as lots of legal ones) can be downright deadly, there is more than enough evidence that shows the danger (if any) of marijuana pales in comparison to most legal drugs, including alcohol and nicotine. Clearly, if one is concerned about health and safety, alcohol has claimed many more lives, and should be the thing prohibited.
Ah, but we tried that, and it failed...miserably! One would think that given the times, people would have been wise to the idea that prohibition is a bad idea, no matter what it is that is being prohibited. Unfortunately, do-gooders are easily lead, and don't usually understand the cause and effect of their ignorant actions.
The first and most important player in this is one William Randolph Hearst. For those not in the know, WR Hearst (4/29/1863 – 8/14/1951), was the Rupert Murdock of his time. He began his career in the publishing business in 1887. At that time, he took over management of the San Francisco Examiner. His father George Hearst had accepted it as payment of a gambling debt. (1)
From this humble beginning, he expanded his media empire from sea to shining sea. He owned newspapers In New York, San Francisco, and lots of places in between. He began to champion public causes, among them, outlawing marijuana possession and use.
On the surface, he used a do-gooder air to make it appear as if his motives were pure. Unfortunately, his motives were more prurient than pure. Because he owned so many newspapers, he also found it economically advantageous to also own lots of forests. Paper made of hemp was cheaper, better, and allowed virgin forests to remain undefiled. It also cost Hearst money. Ergo, it was in his financial interests to act sanctimoniously.
The hemp crop also threatened the recently patented substance known as Nylon. Invented in 1935 by the Dupont corporation, nylon had a rather large competitor in the hemp industry. It was definitely in their best interest to outlaw their competition's product.
Hearst was also sympathetic to the plight of one Harry J. Anslinger, the nation's first official "Drug Czar". Mr. Anslinger's goal was to make marijuana illegal. While his motives were "clean" on the surface, his biographer claims that Anslinger knew that the issue of marijuana would be good for his political career (2).
The racism component comes from Texas and other states that bordered Mexico. The depression was still on, and the job market in Texas was flooded with Mexicans. Many of them brought their favorite leafy intoxicant north of the border with them. Since it would have shown racism to just push them back over the border, Texas decided to make pot illegal. That way, they had a reason to deport those who were found to be illegal aliens. Outlawing weed could be seen as being on the side of right instead of a means of promoting racism.
Do-Gooders On Parade.