By 1937, when “Drug Czar” Harry Anslinger, then Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, introduced the Marihuana [sic] Tax Act to Congress, lurid testimonies were being introduced that cannabis caused “murder, insanity and death.” And just the year before, the film now known as cult classic Reefer Madness was financed by a church group and made under the title Tell Your Children. This highly exaggerated exploitation film revolved around the tragic events that follow when high school students are lured by pushers to try “marihuana:” wild parties with jazz music lead to a hit and run accident, manslaughter, suicide, rape, and descent into madness.
In Virginia, for example, the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act passed the House 88-0 on February 16, 1934, and was approved 34-0 by the Senate on February 22. Although the Act as passed in Virginia contained no marijuana provisions, the same legislature the next month passed a bill (H.B. 236), prohibiting “use of opium, marijuana [and] loco weed … in the manufacture of cigarettes, cigars” and other tobacco products. This law, which amended a 1910 Virginia statute prohibiting the use of opium in the manufacture of cigarettes, was the first mention of marijuana, or any of its derivatives, in the Virginia Code.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch, the newspaper of the state capital and perhaps the most influential newspaper in the state at that time, for the period surrounding the enactment of these two provisions (February 1 to March 15, 1934) shows clearly that little, if any, public attention attended their passage.
There is no mention at any time of H.B. 236. As for H.B. 94 (the Uniform Act), the Times Dispatch reported on February 7 that the bill had been introduced. This announcement was buried among the list of all bills introduced and referred on February 6. In a February 12 article dealing with “controversial” bills before the House and Senate that week no mention was made of H.B. 94. On March 6, the newspaper recorded: “Among the important bills passed were. . . . [far down the list] the Scott bill, making the State narcotic law conform to the Federal statute.”
That is the sum of the publicity received by the Uniform Act and the statute that first regulated marijuana in any way in Virginia.