The 18th Amendment revoked the sales and use of alcohol in the United States in 1919. Shocking as it may seem that such an act could become law, the roots of Prohibition were complex (people were drinking too damn much canned heat) – and misguided. The government created a campaign to scare Americans about liquor with propaganda that looks shockingly similar to another era of prohibition – the one launched against marijuana use. (Not surprisingly, Americans continued boozing it up – through home distilleries making moonshine, private speakeasies, and mob-led bootlegging.)
We’re highlighting the shared journey of alcohol and cannabis prohibition – because they’re retroactively such hilarious images – and we can learn many lessons from these historical documents as we continue to fight for the legalization (and decriminalization) of weed. Laws attempting to legislate morality and ban items that are not evil or against public welfare have never worked – but Bless ‘Em for Trying!
Here’s a look at some of the ways both Prohibition and Reefer Madness were marketed to the masses
Before Prohibition (as with cannabis), alcohol was frequently touted to help with various ailments. Here is a bottle of bonded “medicinal whiskey” labelled “for Medicinal Purposes Only.” Cannabis, of course, has been helping with chronic pain, stress, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, cancer and much more for centuries.
An “Anti-Saloon League” was formed to promote prohibition. (The group became popular with many inside the government after passage of the income tax amendment in 1913 – as they were no longer dependent on booze to fund operations.) This is from their newspaper, The American Issue, from Jan. 25, 1919.
While women were major backers of the early Temperance Campaigns, they also rallied for Repeal of Prohibition. Women are, of course, also leading the legalization movement and many are CEOs of prominent cannabis companies and organizations.
As early as 1871, the campaign against spirits had begun. Here is a Temperance illustration of a drunk man hitting his wife. Much of the prohibition propaganda was sold as a way to protect women and children from boozing hubbies and fathers coming home wasted from work, drinking his paycheck away and raising hell and havoc.
Straight to the Point. The bottle or your best girl!
A far cry from biblical verse (“Wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts”), firewater was eventually sold to the masses as dangerous, deadly rotgut.
In 1936 the now infamous film Reefer Madness was released, warning Mom & Pops about the dangers of weed by showing a group of pot-smoking teenagers descending into a hellscape of murder, madness, suicide and violence after firing up a fatty. Yikes!
Like films such as Reefer Madness and Assassin of Youth, Marihuana attempted to scare the Bejesus out of the general public with absurd claims of cannabis leading to wild orgies (if only!), impregnation, heroin addiction and, yes, kidnapping. That’s some strong ganja!
PROHIBITION REPEALED! Oh Happy Day! By 1933, Americans had had more than enough prohibition, and public opposition had become overwhelming. First Congress passed an act legalizing beer and wine, and by December of 1933 Utah became the 36th State to ratify the 22nd Amendment – repealing the 18th (Prohibition) and restoring the sale and manufacture of alcohol.
Author Michael Stusser is the host of Higher Ground, the World’s first talk show highlighting cannabis culture. Think of it as “The Daily Show” meets “Good Morning America”…but with a giant bong on the desk. For more on Higher Ground and host Michael Stusser, visit www.highergroundtv.com or www.michaelstusser.com