Victor Lacata And The Birth Of Reefer Madness

Victor Lacata – A Rush To Judgement

By the Reefer madness museum

UKCIA is proud to host a new feature – “Victor Lacata a Rush to Judgement” – Read the article here


Back in September 2012 UKCIA heard from a website called Reefer madness museum which was in the process of researching the story of Victor Licata.

The name Victor Licata is not a household name, but the story of this young man and what happened one night in 1933 in the Southern United States city of Tampa, Florida (FLA) was to play a large part in the prohibition of cannabis with the creation of the “reefer madness” myth promoted by the father of the war on drugs Harry Anslinger

Victor Lacata
Victor Lacata

Although the name might not be well known, the story of what happened that night which became accepted as unquestioned fact will actually be familiar to many. The story goes that Victor was a normal, well adjusted young man who became addicted to cannabis (the weed of madness). This turned him utterly and criminally insane and one night he decided that his family were plotting against him so he murdered them all with an axe as they slept in their beds. Victor was judged to be suffering from “dementia praecox with homicidal tendencies”, a condition known today as “paranoid schizophrenia”, confined to a mental asylum in which he murdered another patient and then from which he escaped. He was on the run for five years before being recaptured, when he was sent to prison and where he hung himself.

According to the head of The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger’s “Gore file”

Victor Licata, was a normally sane and quiet young man, who one day had the misfortune of having gone to a pool-hall.  There he procured and smoked two Marihuana cigarettes.  Two weeks later he went insane – it was the Marihuana that had caused it.  And in a blinding rage he grabbed an axe and kills his own mother, his very own mama.  He then goes on and chops his father to death .Then he killed his sweet little baby sister… the next day (when he wakes up in jail), he starts to cry He can’t figure out why his parents are not there to get him out of jail.

The only problem with this official version of the truth is it does seem to be based on a pack of lies and even the plausible aspects are questionable, the article goes into it all in great depth.

But by way of a taster, it seems that Victor did indeed have mental health problems and he had been ill for some time. Actually he wasn’t the only person in the family to have a mental illness. He was also apparently a bootlegger – a moonshine dealer  who was something of a  heavy drinker.

There are several possibilities as to who could have carried out the killings, including the mafia who ran the bootlegging operations and, at the opposite end of the violence spectrum, the Klu Klux Klan and their comically dressed but even more violent friends “The Black Legion”. Oh yes, and there was a serial axe murder at work in the area as well.

KKK and Black Legion
The Klu Klux Klan and The Black Legion. The pirate hat is not a joke.

Victor was a tall lad, but he was in very poor health, weighing only 113 lbs (52 Kg or about 8 stone), so while he may have been able to swing the axe, some of the other feats he carried out that night, including lifting a heavy iron framed bed and kicking a large dog across the room (all while swinging the axe) seems to be a big ask.

The dog

The dog actually played a big part in the story as well. Not only was it was the only survivor of the night, but it had tried to attack him as he did his foul deed which is why Victor kicked it across the room, before swinging his axe at it and causing the beast a nasty injury. The dog then left the house, apparently locking the door on the way out and later served as the main witness in identifying Victor as the killer. Yes, you did read that correctly, a dog that can lock doors and give evidence to the police.

There are of course alternative scenarios to explain what happened, but none of these were heard in court because Victor was never tried. It is worth noting in all this that Victor denied to his dying day that he had ever used cannabis.

There are other issues which make the story a little odd as well, such as there seems to be no record of Victor’s age. This is important because if he was under 21 he would have been a minor, over 21 (as he has been judged to be) he could be treated as an adult, which is what happened. No effort seems to have been made to discover his true age.

The Reefer Madness Museum came to this whole case almost by accident. They explained to UKCIA

Some time ago a friend of mine died of Cancer and I saw with my own eyes, what Medical Cannabis could do in such cases.It was about that time that I heard a group of narc’s claiming that, “Medical Marihuana is NOT medicine and that it NEVER ever had any Medical USES.”

Baloney, I had enough experience via an old bottle collectors club to know that there were a lot of old medicines out there that at one time contain Cannabis (Marihuana) as one of their ingredients.  And I set out to document them.  This in effect was how the “Antique Cannabis Bottle Museum” (Now simply the “Antique Cannabis museum”) was founded.  For those readers interested in the subject, we invite you to visit our website at:

Which documents well over 2,000 such medicines;  — All of which sold legally in drugstores before the coming of the anti-Medical Marihuana laws.

However, we quickly noticed that as we were documenting old Cannabis Medicines, that we were also documenting the Reefer Madness Campaign and the origin of the anti-Medical Cannabis laws.  Which is how Victor Licata came to our attention.  And indeed his case (by anyone standards) was shocking and let’s face it, how many kids go around killing their parents let alone their whole family, etc.  This indeed might be proof that Marihuana did indeed cause its users to go out and commit crimes of great violence and if so the federal government was well justified in outlawing it.  Or at least that was what people were lead to believe in the 1930’s.

As a result of writing this article, the author is firmly of the opinion that Victor Lacata is innocent

“It is this author’s sincere opinion that Victor Licata was innocent.   Whatever else Victor Licata was, he was no murderer.   This was no opinion conveniently derived in order to write a book, but a conclusion reached by happenstance while examining the evidence.   For like so many others I believed that Victor was guilty and as long as the Medical Marihuana was not responsible for his actions, simply accepted his actions as those of a deranged madman.   It was only after learning that there was a serial axe murderer operating in the Tampa area that my natural skepticism began to kick in and begin to question the established viewpoint.

Soon however (as I examined the evidence), that skepticism turned into pure shock.   How could I have fallen for yet another of Harry Anslinger’s lies.   I who have disproved so many Reefer Madness era lies, had fallen for the biggest one out there. [2]  And the evidence itself made it clear that I had.   How would that Comedian Groucho Marx have stated it: “Lady, Half the Evidence is Fake, and the Other Half ain’t all that much better!”

Whether the evidence presented in this article does indeed prove Victor Lataca was innocent I will leave up to the reader to decide, but it certainly shows the lies and deceptions the whole reefer madness claims were built on.

UKCIA carries a slightly edited version of this account – mostly edited for formatting reasons but also slightly abridged, with some points clarified. The original can be seen here.

The Reefer Madness Museum is an interesting site, although it could do with a good redesign it is packed with interesting relics of the reefer madness era and more recent examples of the misinformation still being put around.  It contains lots of information about the Reefer Madness campaign with indexes on everything from Reefer Madness comic books to Old Time Radio programs and more  which might be of interest to students of governmental mis-information campaigns. Take a look around – here





UKCIA is a cannabis law reform site dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis. As an illegal drug, cannabis is not a controlled substance - it varies greatly in strength and purity, it's sold by unaccountable people from unknown venues with no over sight by the authorities. There is no recourse to the law for users and the most vulnerable are therefore placed at the greatest risk. There can be no measures such as age limits on sales and no way to properly monitor or study the trade, let alone introduce proper regulation. Cannabis must be legalised, as an illegal substance it is very dangerous to the users and society at large.