Amazing yet Crazy Anti-Marijuana Posters from the 30s, 40s and 50s

Promotional poster for the film, 'Devil's Harvest,' an exploitation film directed by Ray Test depicting the evils of smoking marijuana, 1942. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Promotional poster for the film, ‘Devil’s Harvest,’

Though hemp was grown as a fiber by the earliest American colonists, and cannabis was used as an ingredient in medicines throughout the 19th century, recreational cannabis smoking first took on a negative connotation in the American cultural imagination when people began to associate it with Mexican immigrants arriving in the country after the revolution of 1910.

Many Mexican laborers smoked marijuana to unwind, as a cheaper alternative to alcohol during Prohibition. The drug became associated with immigrants, tied up in xenophobic fears and resentments during the Great Depression.

Soon researchers claimed baseless links between marijuana use and antisocial behavior, crime, murder and insanity. One by one, states passed legislation outlawing the drug.

In 1936, the film Reefer Madness released. Originally conceived as a morality tale to warn parents against the dangers of cannabis, it was recut into an exploitation film, a lurid melodrama about a group of dope-smoking teens who descend into a hell of murder, suicide and madness brought on by the infernal herb.

Though Reefer Madness was the most famous anti-weed screed, it was soon followed by many imitators, including Assassin of Youth, where all-night marijuana parties lead to violence, andMarihuana, where an innocent girl winds up impregnated, addicted to heroin and planning a kidnapping, all because of a single puff.

A poster for Louis J. Gasnier's 1938 drama 'Reefer Madness' (aka 'The Burning Question'). (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

A poster for Louis J. Gasnier’s 1938 drama ‘Reefer Madness’

A poster for Sam Newfield's 1949 drama 'Wild Weed' starring Lila Leeds. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

A poster for Sam Newfield’s 1949 drama ‘Wild Weed’

A poster for Elmer Clifton's 1937 drama 'Assassin of Youth' . (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

A poster for Elmer Clifton’s 1937 drama ‘Assassin of Youth’ .

A poster for Dwain Esper's 1936 crime film 'Marihuana'. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

A poster for Dwain Esper’s 1936 crime film ‘Marihuana’.

A poster advertising 'Reefer Madness', an anti-drugs exploitation film, dealing with the pitfalls of marijuana smoking, directed by Louis J. Gasnier, 1936. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A poster advertising ‘Reefer Madness’,

Promotional poster for the film, 'Devil's Harvest,' an exploitation film directed by Ray Test depicting the evils of smoking marijuana, 1942. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Promotional poster for the film, ‘Devil’s Harvest,’

A poster for the movie 'Devil's Harvest', 1942. The film purports to tell the truth about marijuana, 'the smoke of hell!'. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

A poster for the movie ‘Devil’s Harvest’, 1942.

A poster advertising 'Reefer Madness', an anti-drugs exploitation film, dealing with the pitfalls of marijuana smoking, directed by Louis J. Gasnier, 1936. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A poster advertising ‘Reefer Madness’

A poster for Ray Test's 1942 drama 'Devil's Harvest'. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

A poster for Ray Test’s 1942 drama ‘Devil’s Harvest’,

A poster for Dwain Esper's 1936 crime film 'Marihuana'. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

A poster for Dwain Esper’s 1936 crime film ‘Marihuana’.

A poster for Elmer Clifton's 1937 drama 'Assassin of Youth'. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

A poster for Elmer Clifton’s 1937 drama ‘Assassin of Youth’.

A poster for the British release of Sam Newfield's 1949 exploitation film, 'The Devil's Weed', starring Lila Leeds. The film's alternative titles are: 'She Shoulda Said 'No!', 'Marijuana, the Devil's Weed', and 'The Story of Lila Leeds and Her Expose of the Marijuana Racket'. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

A poster for the British release of Sam Newfield’s 1949 exploitation film, ‘The Devil’s Weed’.

A film lobby card, 'El Tobaco Negro del Diablo' from Argentina for a Spanish film about a respected surgeon, Pablo Urioste is forced to experience a nightmarish world after his wife, a marijuana addict, dies at a Buenos Aires nightclub, 1950. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

A film lobby card, ‘El Tobaco Negro del Diablo’

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