“Reefer Madness” is a propaganda exploitation film portraying the tragic events that ensue when high school students are lured by pushers to try “marihuana”: a hit-and-run accident, manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape and madness.
It was originally financed by a church group and made under the title ‘Tell Your Children.’
The film was intended to be shown to parents as a morality tale attempting to teach them about the dangers of cannabis use. Soon after being shot however, the film was purchased by producer Dwain Esper, who recut the film for distribution on the exploitation film circuit.
The film was then reissued under several titles in addition to ‘Reefer Madness’, including ‘Dope Addict’, ‘Doped Youth’, ‘Love Madness’ and ‘The Burning Question.’
The film did not gain an audience until it was rediscovered in the 1970s and had a new life as a piece of unintentional comedy among advocates of cannabis policy reform.
Today, it is in the public domain in the United States and is considered a cult film. It inspired a musical satire, which premiered off-Broadway in 2001, and a film based on the musical in 2005.