The earliest version of Reefer Madness was released in 1936. It was financed by a church group who intended it to be a morality tale warning parents of supposed dangers of cannabis use and helped prime the public for prohibitionist Harry Anslinger’s Marihuana Tax Act introduced a year later. In spring of 72, the founder of NORML, Keith Stroup, rediscovered the film and organized college campus screenings throughout California to raise funds for the California Marijuana Initiative which would potentially legalize cannabis in the 1972 fall elections. Though the initiative failed to pass, Reefer Madness was soon after elevated to the status of cult classic and became notorious for midnight movie screenings with spirited audience participation including mass pot smoking during key scenes.
Reefer Madness was “re-imagined” as a musical comedy by Kevin Murphy and premiered in Los Angeles in 1998 and in 2005 Showtime created the cable movie version directed by Andy Fickman and starring Kristen Bell, Christian Campbell, and John Kassir reprising their stage roles.