For better or for worse, the antique cannabis collector is still (to this very day), affected by the aftermath of the Reefer Madness campaign of the 1930’s.   As well as the myths created by the campaign --- many of which are still believed (to this very day) to be true.

sinister MeanceSinister Menace
Perhaps Dwain Esper’s short film, “The Sinister Harvest” (dedicated to Harry Anslinger, Americans first Drug Czar), has a good visual depiction of the subject matter.[A]


Simply put, the myth goes something as follows:
That Egyptian insane asylums were chuck full of thousands upon thousands of medical marihuana addicts.   All of whom had been driven into insanity as a direct result of their foolish use of medical marihuana, etc. . . and that various scientific studies (presumably conducted by legitimate European doctors), had shown this to be the case. . .

And granted, while the very thought that Medical Marihuana could in any way shape or form be the cause of insanity, may seem ridiculous to us today, even the Narc’s have now admit as much.   Still, it is important to understand that public perceptions (during the 1930’s) were such that it was widely accepted at the time.   Just look at some of the following Reefer Madness era quotes:
“Asylums and hospitals in Cairo, Egypt, a country where the drug enjoys wide usage, report many cases of mental derangement due to hashish.” ---On the trail of Marihuana, the Weed of Madness (1939) By Earle Rowell

“In Egypt, however, its widespread use is considered by some people to be one of the major causes of insanity.” ---“What Marijuana Can Do to You” - Woman’s Digest - Feb. 1942 p19 By George Ford

“Continued use of the drug causes insanity in many cases, but very unstable persons may have a short psychotic episode from only a few doses. . . . It has been stated that about 25% of the cases in mental institutions in Egypt and India are due to marihuana.” ---“MARIHUANA” Federal Probation July 1938 - By Lawrence Kolb

“Insanity: In Egypt they have placed much blame on hashish for insanity.   Wise reporting thirty-three per cent in the asylum at Cairo. Many victims, however, put the use of this drug secondary to alcohol in its bad effects.” ---The Journal of the Kansas Medical Society, Dec. 1939 pp 515

“In Egypt and India continued use of marijuana has been known to cause many cases of mental derangement and insanity, some medical authorities considering it more potent than opium in this respect.” -- “Youth Gone Loco” - The Christian Century - June 29, 1938 By Wayne Gard

“Many cases of hashish derangement are on record in the asylums and hospitals of Cairo.” ---Marihuana the New Dangerous Drug By Frederick T. Merrill
As can be seen from the quotations above, the myth was widely spread by Anslinger and his coconspirators during the Reefer Madness campaign.   However it is important to note that the myth itself was already well established in the public mind, long before Anslinger and his mob of narc’s even got into power.   Just note the dates on some of the following (how shall I say it), 'scientific articles'.
British Journal of Inebriety
[ ]- 1931 - V29 pp 60-65 - Drug addiction in Egypt - By Russell Pasha Medical and Surgical Reporter
[ ]- Feb 22, 1892 p255 “Hashish in Egypt” W.C. Mackenzie Lancet
[ ]- May 20, 1899 pp. 1378 - “Hashish-smoking in Egypt “ [As a cause of insanity]
British Medical Journal
[ ] vol. 2, p2 or 8, 1903 Hasheesh Insanity (by Dr. Warnock, superintendent Cairo Lunatic Asylum)
Washington Post (newspaper)
[ ]- Jun 13, 1904 pg 6 -- “Hashish Smoking In Egypt”
[ ]- July 2, 1905 pg 6 -- “Hashish Bane of Egyptians”
[ ]- Feb 10, 1907 pg,6 “Egyptian Smugglers Lose a Rich Haul of Hashish”
[ ]- May 31, 1907 pg. 6 “Cairo’s Curse of Blindness” (Hashish)
Current Literature
[ ]-Aug 1899 p122 - Hashish-smoking in Egypt
Alienist and Neurologist
[ ]- IRELAND, Thomas: “Insanity from the abuse of Indian hemp” St. Louis, 1893, Vol. 14, pages 622-630. - [up to 50% of Indian insane asylums are filled with . . . In Cairo, in British Guiana . . . Homicidal Mania etc.
Journal of Mental Sciences
[ ]- CLOUSTON, T. S.: The Cairo asylum. Dr. Warnock on hasheesh insanity, journal of Mental Science, London, 1897, 42, pages 790-795. Abstract in journal of the American Medical Association, Chicago, 1897, 28, page 510.
So where and how exactly did this myth (so obviously false) come from?

WARNING: -- The following are one individual (this author) opinions and may not represent the opinions of ALL museum members.

In tracking down this myth, it may be best to first look over the following, taken from the British Medical Journal
“. . . The population of Egypt in round numbers may be taken at eight millions, but for the whole country there is only one lunatic asylum, where there are seldom more than three hundred patients at a time.   I have traversed every province more than once without hearing of or meeting lunatics under private control, and the number of idiots was surprisingly small.   As far as I am aware there is no country in the world where lunacy is so rare as in Egypt, and yet, as I have already said, the use of Indian hemp is almost universal.   The drug is not produced locally to any extent and repressive measures are said to be strictly enforced against its introduction; but the only effects of the latter are to raise the price of the desired product, and lower the quality.   There is not a coffee shop in the land where hascihisch cannot be procured if one knows how to set about it.   An American physician lately launched a violent diatribe against Indian hemp because in the Cairo Asylum sixty of the patients were said to have gone mad from the abuse of the drug.   Even if we grant the premisses, what are sixty out of eight millions?” ---British Medical Journal Sep 23, 1893 p710   [COMPLETE ARTICLE]
Remembering that there is a difference between opinion and observation, note the following:
  • Only one insane asylum for a population of eight million
  • Very low numbers of insanity
  • Recreational use is found everywhere.
  • A presumption that said recreational use had been going on for a long, long time. [see section on ancient Egyptian medicine]
These observations are critical in understanding the myth, which seems to be based on the following allegations:
  • That ALL of the insane asylums in Egypt were chuck-full of Medical Cannabis Addicts.
  • That it was the Medical Cannabis that had led to the insanity.
But most damning of all (the assumption that)
  • That there had been numerous scientific studies (and or censes), conducted by European doctors, had been done: Studies that confirmed the said allegations.
However, after extensive research into the subject, this author has been able to come up with the following:

Much depends on some nebulous (almost mysterious) scientific studies, of Egyptian insane asylums, which allegedly had established beyond a shadow of a doubt that Medical Marihuana was indeed responsible for numerous Egyptians going insane.   NO such studies were ever done.   The closest that we have been able to come to anything closely resembling a study was that done by an English colonial doctor.   In which he took a simple poll by asking the inmates whether they had made any use of Cannabis in the past.   And some percentage of the inmates stated yes.   But big deal, what percentage of the population at large made use of the same?

One can only wonder what would have happened if he had ask instead; How many of you ware hat’s?   Ah Ha, proof solid that hats led to crime and insanity!

Boy, real scientific.   Additionally, there is no mention of any such studies in any of the Egyptian (English Language) medical journals.
    Journal of the Egyptian Medical Association
  • Some observations on the action and methods of standardization of hashish, By I R Fahmy - 1936, V19, pp 1-10.
  • The detection of Cannabis Indica; a new test, By M.A. Ghamrawy - 1937, 20, pp 193-208.
  • Some notes on hashish, By A Lucas - 1911, 5, pages 144-159.
While these articles do make references to various statistics, none of them make any mention of any scientific studies.   Which leads one to conclude that none exist.

So going back to the question; where exactly did the myth come from?   Here once more it must be restated that opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who has come up with two basic reasons.

Serial Story
Serial Story

Today we think of newspapers as, primarily there for the sole purpose of printing the news, but this was not always so.   There was a time, long before films and radio (not to mention TV or the Internet), when newspapers of-and-by themselves were expected to be NOT just sources of news, but of entertainment as well.   Thus, it was quite common for many pre-1937 newspapers, among other things, to carry serialized forms of romance and action novels.

A quick survey of early 20th century newspapers shows that quite a few writers of fiction novels made quite a comfortable living off of them.   These serialized novelettes seem to have some recurring themes; American girl visiting Islamic country is kidnapped.   Kidnappers are all crazed Medical Marihuana addicts etc.   And while obviously works of fiction; add to that a number of dime store novels, pulp-fiction magazines etc., and one can easily see how they made a major impact on public perceptions.

sinister Meance
Sinister Menace

It has been said that if something is said often enough then sooner or later it begins to take on a truth of its own.   The following example (part of a newsletter sent out by our sister museum), helps explain the situation.
[Newsletter from the Museum of Reefer Madness Museum]

[ ]- “The weed of insanity” By Louis J. Bragman MD - 1925 Vol.122, pp 416
[ ]- “A minor de Quincey” By L.J. Bragman MD, 1925, 121, pp 43

It should be noted that these two articles [C] written by Dr. Bragman, were widely quoted by other medical [as well are reefer madness] publications.   Including:
    [ ]- Jan. 1936 pp232 “some psychiatric aspects of marijuana intoxication” by P. H. Drewry, MD, assistant resident physician, Bloomingdale hospital, white plains, n. y.
    [ ]- Jan. 1939 pg 24. “MARIJUANA” By James W. Jackson, M.D.
    [ ]- Dec 4, 1935 page 488 “Hasheesh”
    [and probably many others]
HOWEVER the following information was dug-ed out of the Anslinger Collection at Penn State University:

[Panama Cannel report] “This board reported that reports of alleged effects of marijuana seem to have little basis in fact and there is no medical evidence that it causes insanity.   In response to an inquiry a physician author of an article “The Weed of Insanity,” published in a medical journal, replied “I am sorry to say that I have had little experience with Cannabis Indica . . . My interest in the drug was at the onset mainly literary.”   Similar replies were received to other inquiries.”

Hmmm! In other words, this guy was just mouthing off what he heard, and the next thing you know, everyone else is quoting him.
Comic Book

This one is pretty much a repeat of the Egyptian Insane Asylum myth, only the geography has now been moved to India. As can be seen from the following quotations, the two myths are almost identical.
“Statistics show that from seventeen to twenty per cent of all males admitted to mental hospitals and asylums in India have become insane through the use of this drug.” --- Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology , vol. 23 p 1086 “Marihuana” By M.H. Hayes and L.E. Bowery

“An excessive use does, however, cause a mental deterioration, as evidenced by a considerable number of patients in the mental hospital at Bombay whose condition is directly traceable to hashish and other preparations of hemp.” ---San Francisco Police Journal June 1934

“Crazed by Hashish” “Fifty-three per cent of the lunatics in the asylums of Bengal are there entirely as the result of using “hashish” a poisonous drug. In Egypt, Greece, and Turkey the use of the drug is forbidden by a stringent law” --Washington Post, Nov 12, 1893 p15

“Insanity from the abuse of Indian hemp” By Thomas Ireland - [up to 50% of Indian insane asylums are filled with . . . In Cairo, in British Guiana . . . Homicidal Mania etc. Interesting Reading]---Alienist and Neurologist 1893, Vol. 14, pp 622-630.

“Captain Dhunjibhoy, Superintendent of the Indian Mental Hospital in Ranchi, says: "I shall not hesitate to believe any one who commits acts of violence under the influence of the drug and pleads complete amnesia of the crime on recovery." From the same authoritative source the following is quoted: "I put this drug above alcohol, opium and cocaine, with regards to injurious tendencies in the causation of insanity in India." He states that hemp is a direct cerebral poison which causes the following types of insanity: 1, acute delirious mania; 2, chronic mania; 3, dementia.” --- New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal - “The Marihuana Menace” By A. E. Fossier M.D. V84 1931 p 247

“In Egypt and India continued use of marijuana has been known to cause many cases of mental derangement and insanity, some medical authorities considering it more potent than opium in this respect.” ---The Christian Century June 29, 1938 Youth Gone Loco - By Wayne Gard

“Destructive changes in the brain are sometimes evident. Children of addicts are said to be inferior; in some parts of India, where hashish has long been used to excess, whole communities are imbecilic and morally degraded.” --- The American Scholar v8. No.1 Winter 1938-1939 by Marihuana By Maud A. Marshall

“The Hemp Drugs Commission of India investigating consequences of this drug in a country where it use is closely interwoven with religious and social customs, reported (1893) that moral depravity was produced and intensified and physical and mental injury was brought on by the immoderate use of hashish”. ---The American Scholar Vol.8. No.1 Winter 1938-1939 by Marihuana By Maud A. Marshall [D]

“The effects of marijuana are lasting in still another way. An official report in 1942 on an extended study of the relationship in India between the users of marijuana and the incidence of insanity concluded that "there is definite anatomical injury to the brain." Twenty-five per cent of the insanity cases examined were found to be marijuana smokers. The report further stated, in even more precise terms, that "the prolonged abuse of the poison gives rise to progressive weakening of all the faculties of the brain, eventually leading to dementia." --- Collier’s June 1949

Washington Post: Nov 12, 1893 pg 15 -- “Crazed by hashish”
Fifty-three per cent of the lunatics in the asylums of Bengal are there entirely as the result of using “hashish” a poisonous drug. In Egypt, Greece, and Turkey the use of the drug is forbidden by a stringent law”
Once again, the two myths are almost identical and for good reasons (at least during the Reefer Madness Era) the sources of disinformation where one and the same.   BUT (and this is an important but), at least in this case, there were indeed scientific studies or censuses [conducted by legitimate European doctors] [E] of Indian insane asylums that gave credence to the myth.   So much so that in 1892 the British colonial government was forced to conduct its own governmental study on the matter.   [The verdict was Not Guilty, as the Brits would say, “Utter Rot”]   However, be that as it may, as one can see from the following medical journals; unlike the case in Egypt, this one at least had some validity to it.
Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine
  • The role of "Indian Hemp" in causation of insanity in India, By J E Dhunjibhoy - 1928, V.1, p 400

    Indian Journal of Medical Research
  • Cannabis sativa in relation to mental diseases and crime in India, By R N & G S Chopra - Jan 1942, 30, pp 155-171.

    Indian Medical Gazette
  • Death from taking Indian Hemp, By s. Deakin - 1880, pp 71.
  • On insanity produced by the abuse of ganja and other preparations of Indian hemp, with notes of cases, By J.H. Tull-Walsh - 1894, 29, pp 333-334, 369-372, 446-451.
  • Indian Hemp Drugs and Insanity Nov. 1904 pp 421-422
  • Insanity following the use of Indian hemp, By G.F.W. Ewens - 1904, 39, pp 401-413.
  • Notes on insanity with illustrative cases, By C.J. Robertson-Milne - 1906, 41, pp 129-132.
  • Ganja as a cause of insanity and crime in Bengal, By A.S.M Peebles & H.W. Mann - 1914, 491, pp 395-396.

    Journal of Mental Sciences
  • Hemp drugs and insanity, By J.H. Tull-Walsh - 1894, 40, pp 21-36.
  • Insanity from hasheesh, By J. Warnock - Jon, 1903, 49, pp 96-110.
  • Statistical Notes on Criminal Lunacy in the Punjab Asylum By C.J. Robertson - 1908 pp 362-372.
  • So how does one explain them away?   The reader would be horrified to know just how many fruitless hours were personally spent going over one medical journal after another, looking for an answer, until one day I accidentally found an article; written by a lawyer NOT a doctor.

    It seems that Colonial Indian had a quirky criminal law.   If you were arrested for [rape, bank robbery etc.], you could be sent to trial, convicted and sent to jail.   BUT IF you committed the crime while under the influence of Cannabis, thEn the most the judge could do to you was send you to an insane asylum; and there you would remain until proclaimed sane by a physician.   Even a full four weeks if need be.   Hmmm!
    “Hemp Drugs and Insanity” - Journal of Mental Science - Vol-XL 1894 p21
    "I have a few words to say regarding criminal lunatics.   There has been an increase of late in the number of this class of the insane, and it has appeared to me, judging, from their demeanor here (many of them), that it would be as well for those whose duty it is to pronounce on the sanity of these individuals to recollect (medical officers, juries, and judicial officers) that cerebral excitement resulting from the abuse of intoxicating liquors and drugs is Dot insanity.   If an Englishman gets drunk, and in that state commits a criminal act, he is held responsible for it; and if be has committed murder in his state of excitement he is hung.   But a native of India indulges in an intoxicating drug which he knows will produce maniacal excitement, and he escapes all future punishment (except confinement in a lunatic asylum) on the ground of insanity.  The drunken native is no more mad than the drunken Englishman; why, then, this difference in the punishment awarded?   I think I could point out several (so-called) criminal lunatics at Dallanda who have never shown any signs of insanity, and who have never been insane, though they have suffered from the stimulating and destructive effects of bhanq, churrus, or other intoxicating agent."
    (G. Saunders, Deputy Inspector-General, Bengal, "Inspection Report Dallanda Asylum, 1870")
    Given those conditions, it seems to me that only an idiot (or someone truly insane) would . . . . etc.   In addition, as if to add insult to injury, there also seems to be an issue with exactly what constitutes a Medical Marihuana addict.

    [The following was taken from our sister museum’s newsletter]
    Crime, Insanity and Medical Marihuana.
    The museum has just been able to obtain a copy of “The Present Position of Hemp-Drug Addiction in India” first published in the [1939] “Journal of Indian Medical Research.” This article was widely quoted by Harry Anslinger as “proof” that Medical Marihuana led to Violent Crime and Mental Insanity.

    However, the article [over 120 pages] can mean almost anything. It’s a five year study on over 1,200 Medical Marihuana Addicts, AND I DO MEAN Medical Marihuana Addicts: Of those studied, the following percentages admitted to being addicts because of the following aliments:
      21.1% Migraine Headaches
      19.4% Rheumatism
      30.5% Dyspepsia [stomach problems]
      12.5% Dysentery
      0.6% Epilepsy
      6.6% Nervous Problems
      6.9% Malaria etc.
      8% Other diseases that Cannabis has been found helpful
    Boy Real Hemp-Addicts all-right. Anyway, the following are some quotes:

    Violent Crime:
    “So far as premeditated crime premeditated crime is concerned, especially that of a violent nature, hemp drugs in some cases may not only not lead to it, but they may actually act as deterrents.” . . . The result of continued and excessive use of these drugs in our opinion is to make the individual timid rather than to head him to commit a crime of violent nature. “[page 92]

    “It has already been said that hemp drugs have been used by criminals for two purposes. Firstly, to fortify themselves to commit premeditated crimes, and secondly, to enable them to endure unusual fatigue or exposure to inclement weather and to stimulate them to unwonted exertion.” [page 93]

    I won’t bore the reader, but similar [back and forth] quotations can be found for Insanity, Asthma and just about everything else. Again, the study can mean almost anything anyone wants it to mean.
    I’ll let the reader decide for herself whether the term medical patient or drug addict applies.   Point being made here -- the doctors who conducted these studies seemed to know which side their bread was buttered on.   Here I will give but just one example of this situation:
    Indian Medical Gazette - Place of Publication Calcutta
    DEAKIN, S.: Death from taking Indian Hemp, 1880, p 71.
    “The body of a Hindu male, aged 40 years, was brought in by the Police for examination. The mother and wife of the deceased stated that since the mutiny he had been in the habit of using intoxicating drugs excessively, smoking ganja and drinking bhang, preparations of Indian hemp. After so indulging he generally became insensible or stupid. He was delirious for a fortnight before his death. On the day on which he died he tried to hammer a nail into his temple and then died suddenly.

    Post-mortem.--- Body of a well-nourished male, aged about 40 years, exhibiting no marks of violence excepting a small lacerated wound, measuring 1/4 inch across, over right temple. This does not penetrate the muscular aponeurosis. beneath the occipito-frontalis and at a point below the wound there is a large clot of extravasated blood. Skull not fractured. On removing the vault, vessels of diploe and duramater are seen to be greatly congested. beneath the duramater blood was found effused over the whole upper surface of right brain and over the frontal lobe of left brain. A large clot was found in the right middle fossa of skull : this extended across the crus and pons. There was a large clot in the left lateral vertricle ; a smaller one in the right.

    Lungs.---The posterior borders of lower lobe on both sides hypostatically congested, otherwise healthy. Heart: cavities amply ; valves competent, healthy. Liver, spleen, intestines and kidneys, healthy ; stomach full of half-digested food, mucous membrane blackened in places from decomposition of blood in distended vessels. Bladder full of healthy urine but not distended. “
    I will let the reader determine whether it was Medical Marihuana or a police officer's Billy-Club that killed the patient.

    As this myth follows the Egyptian one so closely, other than what has already been stated, no attempt will be made to disprove it.   Instead, I ask the reader to observe the obvious.   If there was any truth in it (remembering that Medical Cannabis is quite-legal in India), then where are the insane Hemp victims today?   Why aren’t the Indian Insane asylums chuck full of Medical Cannabis patients today?

    Obviously if you are reading this book, you have some beliefs in or at least some interest in conspiracies.   Thus this section, which in effect states that NOT ALL things were conspiratorial in nature may seem a bit awkward.   In fact, one of the hardest things for some to accept is the concept that some events just happened naturally --- having nothing what-so-ever to do with a small group of older men sitting around a table in a smoke filled room.

    For example:   There are some who say that an old Sumerian text (a clay tablet written five thousand years ago) contains negative references to the use of Medical Marihuana. But does this make it a part of the conspiracy? Not unless you believe that who-ever wrote it (around 3,000-DC) was still alive and kicking in the early 1930's.

    While these myths have now been totally discredited, it should be noted that just as the Reefer Madness campaign was starting, they were ALL fully established in the public mind as being factual.   But it’s also a fact that the conspirators were certainly NOT above making use of these myths for their own interests;   Many of which still exist in the minds of law enforcement officials to this very day.


    For those interested, the film can be downloaded for free via -- ; or can be obtain from the museum on CD-rom.
    [B]- The museum has many of these articles -- feel free to ask for them
    [C]- Electronic copies of these articles are available from the museum, feel free to ask.
    [D]- This is total false, the commission stated the exact opposite.
    [E]- Our apologies for the racist statements, we ask the reader to please take its context usage into account.


    Due to space / download time considerations, only selected materials are displayed. If you would like to obtain more information, feel free to contact the museum. All our material is available (at cost) on CD-Rom format.

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