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  • Martha Bajec, PhD

The ‘New’ Reefer Madness

In a recent ‘Frank Discussion on Consumer Cannabis Industry Challenges,’ our friend Darwin Millard (aka The Spock of Cannabis) of Final Bell and ASTM D37 described the recent widespread acceptance of cannabidiol (CBD), and specifically CBD from ‘hemp’, and continued vilification of cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as the ‘new’ Reefer Madness. Here we introduce HCD’s new blog series entitled “The New Reefer Madness.” The name of the series was sparked by its clever repurposing by Darwin, but it is particularly apt here as we aim to clear some of the haze around all aspects of cannabis, its use, and how to best research it.

While its viewing in more recent years has been undertaken ironically, the 1936 film Reefer Madness remains an iconic example of the propaganda of drug prohibition. Debates continue over the specific origin of the global prohibition on cannabis (Gieringer, 1999), but it has indeed been global (Levine, 2002; Collins, 2020). The campaigns of the early 1900s to demonize cannabis were wildly successful as the confusion and fear they stoked still remain in the minds of many people around the world even today (Salon, 2018; Reid, 2020; The Bluntness, 2021).

Even though humans have been using cannabis for myriad purposes for thousands of years (Russo, 2007; Crocq, 2015; Clarke & Merlin, 2017), the recent decades of global prohibition have left us with a massive knowledge gap around what cannabis is and what it can do, as it was previously restricted not only for public consumption but also for almost all types of research purposes (Heidt & Wheeldon, 2021; Alvarez, 2017). With Canada legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational consumer use in 2018, other states and nations have quickly followed suit with their own decriminalization and/or legalization strategies (Baek, 2021).

As restrictions are lifted and cannabis legality and use are revisited around the world (Bewley-Taylor et al., 2014; Hurley, 2018), an information avalanche has come upon us with all kinds of recommendations and claims pertaining to cannabis use and its effects. Understandably and expectedly, the sheer volume of information available to consumers looking for alternative or novel health, wellness, and/or recreational solutions, and companies eager to join this multi-billion-dollar space (Global News, 2022), is overwhelming. Cannabis or hemp? Indica or sativa? Cannabinoids or terpenes? Extracts or isolates? Medical or recreational? THC or CBD? Flower or bud? Joints or blunts? Herb vape or concentrate vape?

These are just a few of the topics we will be exploring in “The New Reefer Madness” blog series. So join HCD Research as we TURN ON our knowledge sharing in the cannabis space, TUNE IN to the market and the current and future consumer, and DROP OUT key insights and perspectives that can help you enter and grow your cannabis business.

If you are interested in learning more about how HCD Research can help you explore the wellness space (including cannabinoids), please contact Allison Gutkowski at


Alvarez, C. (2017). A Call to Higher Action: Cannabis Prohibition in the United States and Canada Makes for an Uncertain Future. University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review, 24(2), 441.

Baek, C. (2021). Ending the Federal Cannabis Prohibition: Lessons Learned from the History of Alcohol Regulations, Twenty-first Amendment, and Dormant Commerce Clause Jurisprudence. Case Western Reserve Law Review, 71(4), 1323.

Bewley-Taylor, D., Jelsma, M., & Blickman, T. (2014). The Rise and Decline of Cannabis Prohibition. Transnational Institute.

Cannabis criminalization today worse than 1930s “reefer madness” | Retrieved April 8, 2022, from

Cannabis has added $43.5B to Canada’s economy since legalization | Retrieved April 8, 2022, from

Clarke, R. C., & Merlin, M. D. (2017). Cannabis Domestication, Breeding History, Present-day Genetic Diversity, and Future Prospects. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 35(5–6), 293–327.

Collins, J. (2020). A Brief History of Cannabis and the Drug Conventions. American Journal of International Law, 114, 279–284.

Crocq, M.-A. (2020). History of cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 22(3), 223–228.

Gieringer, D. H. (1999). The Forgotten Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California. Contemporary Drug Problems, 26(2), 237–288.

Heidt, J., & Wheeldon, J. (2021). Data, Damn Lies, and Cannabis Policy: Reefer Madness and the Methodological Crimes of the New Prohibitionists. Critical Criminology.

Levine, H. G. (2002). The Secret of World Wide Drug Prohibition. The Independent Review, 7(2), 165–180.

Reefer Madness Today: New “Study” Makes Unsupported Claims About Cannabis. | Retrieved April 8, 2022, from

Reid, M. (2020). A qualitative review of cannabis stigmas at the twilight of prohibition. Journal of Cannabis Research, 2(1), 46.

Russo, E. (2007). History of Cannabis and Its Preparations in Saga, Science, and Sobriquet. Chemistry & Biodiversity, 4(8), 1614–1648.



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