U of I art history student discussing anti cannabis propaganda

JOHN MCcORMICK: All right. I’m John McCormick. I was — I am a student here at the University of Iowa. I wasn’t planning on doing a presentation today. I was here actually to take pictures of other speakers but got here a little late for people-taking pictures.
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Last semester and also during the summertime, I had a class for art history and got on a topic with the teacher about different posters, movie posters. I’m a cinema student and comparative literature student and how art — or movie posters are pretty influential and are art pieces within themselves.
And to go along with this. I got interested in this subject off of there’s kind of a cult film called Reefer Madness that’s an old — and I’ll get to the movie poster — old 1936 movie about how — it was a government-run movie on how it’s very bad for people to smoke marijuana and that smoking marijuana would lead you to kill people.
And through that, through a couple years after that, there was similar movies that came out to kind of dissuade people from — from using and smoking that.
So what I’m trying to show is just a little bit of history behind it and kind of where — where a lot of the influences came from because at that time when you had a movie from the government that was a big influential thing — and we’ll get to that. The government actually played Page 160 both sides of this. So Art of Prohibition. So one of the first ones that came out, and like I said, I just made this — this slide show right now because I lost the original one beforehand. But this is — this is one of the first ones.
In 1936, Marihuana One, and you can see how they’re injecting marijuana, which is not even true. People don’t inject marijuana. But they saw, like, needles are kind of scary to people. I don’t like needles personally. And — and how it has, you know, “Misery. Weird orgies, wild parties, unleashed passions, crazy things.”
And what this is trying to show is things from the jazz era. One of the big influences that people saw is that a lot of jazz musicians used marijuana while playing. There’s quotes from John Coltrane saying that, you know — you know, “Marijuana makes music sound good,” things like that, so they all did that. This was a way to kind of go against that. It’s that showing that these weird orgies and wild parties were evil. So it says “Weeds with roots in hell.” And so that’s one of the first ones that came out, and we’ll keep on moving on because I know I’m on a Page 161 time limit here.
So this is the one that became a cult classic, Reefer Madness. And you can kind of read the different things from it. You know, “Women cry for it. Men die for it,” things like that. And within the movie, a kid, a high school kid, begins to smoke marijuana cigarettes with an older kid that brings him to these parties. Eventually he starts smoking so many of these that he goes crazy, steals a car, and crashes.
The older guy in the film, which is these pictures right there, eventually goes crazy playing the — or listening to piano, and when a guy comes in, he shoots and kills him. And then it says — it has some tropes of a guy talking to — from the government saying “This is, you know, very, very bad for you, and you know, it will lead you to your death.”
Another one, I actually haven’t got a chance to watch this. They’re not very many copies left of it but Assassin of Youth, so again, same type of idea going through it.
Another thing that you keep on seeing recurring happening is marijuana is spelled wrong, and one of the big reasons for this, another reason Page 162 if you want to kind of bring in the — the race aspect to it is that another reason why it was originally made illegal was that people from Mexico, workers from Mexico, used marijuana as kind of, like, after their day of work, they used to smoke it.
Back then, you know, a lot of people that made these posters did not have a grasp of Spanish and marijuana spelled with an H instead of a J because J in Spanish has an H sound.
Now, this is another one. This is — I like this poster because I think it’s pretty funny. Devil’s Harvest, you know, again, the smoke of hell debauchery. You can see all these different things that are going around it, saying all this.
And that’s in 1942, so we’re getting into World War II, and then all of a sudden, they do a 180 on it, and a lot of those were not actually from the government. The ones — there’s only one or two that are actually — that it was movies that I just showed were — were influenced a lot by Harry Anslinger, and he got a lot of the money from that.
Page 163 Ann Hearst who bought up a lot of stuff — of — sorry — woodlands in the Northwest in order to make pulp mills.
Now, in 1943, Hemp for Victory came out, and this is during World War II where we needed hemp for rope. Hemp is one of the best materials that you can — that you can make.
The only other, I think, natural fiber that has a higher tensile strength, I think, is flax. Flax is a little bit harder to grow. So hemp has over 1,500 different products, and those products are going up exponentially as the years go on.
Right now currently United States is the only industrial country that does not grow their own hemp, so we have to import it all.
My dad is actually a farmer — or sorry. Not a farmer — but he’s been involved in it his whole life, and he’s — he’s a seed corn dealer and works with farmers for, you know, his whole entire life.
One of the key issues — and it’s kind of funny in Iowa we don’t bring up the hemp issue even though North Dakota and Minnesota have — that we don’t use it as a third rotation crop because you can grow it up to three times a year — or at least in our region we can only grow it three times a year, roughly, or maybe two.
And again, hemp got rolled into marijuana even though you can’t get high from — from hemp. It has a lower — I think it’s .002 level of THC, which that means you would have to smoke about the state of Iowa in order to get high off of it.
This continued on, and this is kind of the end of my presentation because I made it right now, but this continued on with a little bit more of the movies became more intrigued. Culture around this era started to become a little more wanting to — what was going on there? So bigger movies came out that kind of dealt with that.
So Days of Sin and Nights of Nymphomania, you know, kind of give the idea what are these crazy parties that you hear all about? And actually a change in attitude towards marijuana started to begin around — around this era.
And you saw a lot of swinger parties pop up and people just trying it, and that’s when the shift of it becoming kind of like an underground type of thing into the mainstream.
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So — and then after this, you get ones that have mixed messages of — of the use and on from there, like, famously, Easy Rider and things like that so — and that’s what I have on the fly, so thank you.
ROBERT MANKE: How come I never seen any of that online?
JOHN McCORMICK: Never seen what?
ROBERT MANKE: How come I never seen any of that online?
JOHN McCORMICK: Like, seen those movies?
CARL OLSEN: You ain’t getting the good stuff. I hate when that happens.



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