Concern about the effects of hemp smoke had already led to two major governmental studies. The British governor of India released the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission 1893-1894 on heavy bhang smokers in the subcontinent.
And in 1930, the U.S. government sponsored the Siler Commission study on the effects of off-duty smoking of marijuana by American servicemen in Panama. Both reports concluded that marijuana was not a problem and recommended that no criminal penalties apply to its use.
In early 1937, Assistant U.S. Surgeon General Walter Treadway told the Cannabis Advisory Subcommittee of the League of Nations that, It may be taken for a relatively long time without social or emotional breakdown. Marihuana is habit-forming in the same sense as sugar or coffee.
But other forces were at work. The war fury that led to the Spanish American war in 1898 was ignited and fanned by William Randolph Hearst through his nationwide newspaper chains, marking the beginning of yellow journalism* as a force in American politics.
* Websters dictionary defines yellow journalism as the use of cheaply sensational or unscrupulous methods in newspapers and other media to attract or influence the readers.
In the 1920s and 30s, Hearsts newspapers deliberately manufactured a new threat to America and a new yellow journalism campaign to have hemp outlawed. For example, a story of a car accident in which a marijuana cigarette was found would dominate the headlines for weeks, while alcohol-related car accidents (which outnumbered marijuana-connected accidents by more than 10,000 to 1) made only the back pages.
This same theme of marijuana leading to car accidents was burned into the minds of Americans over and over again in the late 1930s by showing marijuana-related car accident headlines in movies such as Reefer Madness and MarijuanaAssassin of Youth.
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