Marijuana Really Isn't Scary - And a Funny New Halloween-Themed Billboard Is Pointing That Out


As batty as most anti-marijuana messaging is these days, things were truly bonkers at the outset of cannabis’ criminalization. Reefer Madness, the famous 1936 propaganda film about the dangers of marijuana, made the entirely fabricated claim that smoking pot turned people into violent, promiscuous maniacs. After just one marijuana cigarette, people were shown attacking each other, running over innocent civilians with cars and generally losing their minds. 

With Lewiston, Minnesota set to vote on cannabis legalization this election day, advocates are getting into the Halloween spirit and using imagery redolent of the Reefer Madness craze to show just how insane our criminalization policies are.

Halloween and anti-pot propaganda make a surprisingly good fit. Just like witches and ghouls, the nominal intent of prohibitionists is to frighten, even though there is really nothing to be scared of. Unlike alcohol, weed is not associated with violent and risky behavior. It has nothing close to the addictive powers of alcohol, nicotine and many other drugs. Drug cartels, gang violence and the racist arrest patterns, which are legitimately frightening, all result from criminalization. Marijuana itself, however, is not much scarier than coffee.

If we needed any more proof of cannabis’ safety, Colorado and Washington have provided that. The biggest headline that came out of legalization in those two states was a fake one from the satirical website, the Daily Currant, about people dying from weed overdoses on the first day of legalization in Colorado (which no one in recorded history has ever actually done). The thing is, not everyone got the joke: the Annapolis chief of police cited that article while testifying against decriminalization in Maryland. Some people believe in ghosts, others fear the specter of marijuana’s destructive effects, but neither has substantial evidence backing them up. 

Lewiston, Maine’s second largest city, will vote on Question 2 this election day to end the madness of criminalization. While the vote is largely symbolic, at least under current leadership—Gov. Paul LePage has no intention of allowing Lewiston to engage in state-sanctioned marijuana business—it is part of a growing movement in the state. Portland, Maine’s largest city, already voted by a 2 to 1 margin to legalize cannabis in 2012, and South Portland, the state’s fourth largest city, will vote on a similar measure this November.

If the first, second and fourth largest cities in the Pine Tree State are all on record in support of sensible drug reform policies, Maine will be well-situated for a statewide referendum in 2016. Furthermore, LePage is in a tough reelection battle. His main opponent (there is also a strong third-party challenger), Democrat Michael Michaud, has shown signs that he is pro-drug reform. 

The dangers of marijuana, like zombies, ghosts and vampires, get loads of media attention, but in reality are more or less nonexistent. Suspension of disbelief is all well and good for Halloween or a scary movie, but once the lights come up, it’s time to get back to reality, where none of those things that people like to scare themselves with are real.

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