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The movie Reefer Madness was originally known as Tell Your Children. This movie was produced in 1936 and was funded by a group of church members going by the same name "Tell Your Children". This movie despite the important message it conveyed it did not gain prominence until in the 1970s.The sole intention of this movie was to inform society and especially so the young and parents alike and teach them about the effects of drug use. Parents are obliged to learn about the evil that marijuana is and caution their children. Society has many ills and vices which lead to endangerment to the life and quality of the youth .Therefore the youth should make smart, sober and prudent decisions on the kind of life they pursue. This movie highlights various vices such as drug abuse and in extension the various effects it brings about such as manslaughter and suicide.
During the production of this movie the scourge of drug use and especially marijuana was common in the United States of America. Many teenagers tend to engage in marijuana use for various reasons ranging from recreational to medical reasons. During this period of 1930s saw various states in the USA start instituting laws to curb the menace that cannabis sativa use had become. However during the said period marijuana use was not criminal in many states. It is during this period that drug abuse came under fierce scrutiny from various sectors and sections of society. Therefore Refer madness was used as a medium for bringing out the reasons why cannabis sativa should be criminalized (Willoughby, 1925).
Mae and Jack Perry are marijuana dealers. Ralph who is psychotic and a college drop out and Blanche are also marijuana dealers however they are contracted to sell marijuana to teenagers on behalf of their boss. This shows the hypocrisy of drug barons who are not ready to sell drugs themselves or engage in the dirty work. Instead they employ dealers who do the dirty work on their behalf. Mae on the other hand is more reserved as he deals only with a clientele whose almost his age.. Jimmy and Bill are two exemplary and brilliant students in school. They are the perfect example to other students. These were students who even declined to take anything that made them light headed but everything changes. This is bound to change once they are hooked to drug abuse.
Bill Harper and Jimmy Lane are lured into Jack's and Mae's apartment by Ralph and Blanche with a party as bait This shows a ploy used by drug dealers to hook their prospective customers to drugs whilst they are young. Drug dealers will use niceties and pleasantries when scouting for customers. This in turn means that the young teenagers will provide a market for drugs for many years to come. The drug dealers realize that it is much easier to hook teenagers to drugs .Teenagers are more adventurous ,lack strong principles and lack role models to look up to unlike adults. This is the reason why the drugs are handed out freely to prospective young clients. This shows that dealers do not care about society but about self preservation. What drives them is not conscience or the betterment of society bur rather the vicious cycle of profit making and greediness.
For instance when Jimmy asks Jack for a cigarette Jack hands him a joint of marijuana. Jimmy smokes the marijuana; however this simple act of pleasure and innocence on his part turns tragic. The joint hinders Jimmy's judgment and he hits and kills a pedestrian. This probably shows that marijuana use not only affects the user or consumer but also affects third parties too. It is like a vicious chain that affects the entire society. This is because were Jimmy not high on drugs he would not have caused the accident or the death of the pedestrian. This by extension also affects the pedestrian's family who loose a loved one over preventable and reckless driving. Jimmy is lucky that he escapes his actions but has to live with the guilt.
Mary is not as lucky as Jack as she looses her life. Mary goes looking for Jimmy in Mae's apartment. She innocently accepts a marijuana joint from Ralph taking it to be just a cigarette. Ralph wants her high in order to make sexual advances towards her but Mary declines. Ralph attempts to rape her .In the adjacent room Bill is engaging in sexual activities with Blanche. This shows that smoking of marijuana leads to sexual promiscuity as once judgment is hindered. During this time a scuffle ensures and Mary is accidentally shot dead when the guns trigger goes off. Jack frames Bill to have shot Mary by putting the gun in Bills hand. Bills trial begins and the dealers lie low for the time being (Murphy& Studney, 2002).
Ralph guilt is killing him inside to a point of loosing sanity. His conscience is at cross roads as he wants to inform the police on what actually unfolded on that fateful day. This incurable insanity can be attributed to the excessive use of marijuana. Jack is wary of Ralph informing the police and seeks advice from his boss who tells him to eliminate Ralph. This way the police cannot link Bill to Mary's murder. Ralph suspects that Jack wants to eliminate him and beats him senselessly to death. This leads to the rounding up of the entire gang. Bill is ultimately set free as he is innocent. Ralph is determined as being insane and thus placed in a mental institution for the rest of his life. Blanche on the other hand is not willing to testify against Ralph and chooses the easy way out by jumping from a window and meeting her death.
The movie later on leads to laughable and even silly scenes. Blanches thinks it will be prudent to play Ralph some music to make him cool off and relax him. At this moment both are high on marijuana. Ralph says he prefers Blanche playing the piano fast. This is comical and even silly to some extent as the music seem gibberish and even incoherent. Other silly and comical effect of marijuana is that it makes its user dance wildly, laugh uncontrollably and get the urge to smoke even more (Keel, 2002).
The movie ends with message that the events in the movie are likely to take place in real life and it is up to parents to ensure that the events in the movie do not happen to their children. The closing words are "Tell your children". These words lay a lot of emphasis on parent's role in a bid to address drug abuse and its subsequent effects. The movie Reefer madness may have been produced more than seventy years ago however the message still holds and rings true. This plague of drug abuse must therefore be fought from all fronts. Everybody must take an active role in fighting this cancer. However emphasis should not be laid on marijuana alone but on all types of drugs.