From Reefer Madness To Today, How Media Coverage Of Pot Has Changed


To mark today’s one-year anniversary of recreational-marijuana stores opening in Washington state, the Seattle Times reviewed the media coverage of cannabis coverage over the past 100-plus years. Marijuana turned musicians in Chicago into “laugh addicts,” said a 1928 account. A 1940 dispatch from New York recounted that “Harlem Negroes” had invented a new lexicon related to marijuana. Other stories recounted drugs coming in from Canada, China and the Middle East. “The media's portrayal has, in some instances, contributed to accurate public knowledge and marijuana's effects on behavior, how popular it was, who was using it,” said Roger Roffman, a University of Washington professor emeritus and author of “Marijuana Nation: One Man's Chronicle of America Getting High.” “In other instances, the media pretty grossly contributed to stereotypical views of marijuana users and marijuana policy.”

Echoing films such as “Reefer Madness,” marijuana was often portrayed as a gateway drug to narcotics, debauchery and a life of crime. In 1953, The Seattle Times interviewed parents of teens arrested for stealing cars. The parents of one 13-year-old said their son “got in with a tough (high school) … gang” that would get marijuana, then steal cars “for the thrill of it.” A year later, a dealer was sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling dope to minors. In 1981, The Seattle Times ran a 10-part Associated Press series called “Marijuana and Your Child.” There was a marijuana epidemic among America's children, the AP said.

Comments are closed.