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Moral Panics and Drug Laws

A moral panic is the widespread feeling on part of the public that something is wrong in their society because of the moral failings of a group of individuals. The concept was developed by British sociologists examining the tendencies of certain actors to sensationalize events, conditions, or behaviors and to identify them as emblematic of moral failures that threaten the social order. Moral panics occur when moral entrepreneurs convince the public that a serious problem exists. They can emerge from grassroots efforts, well-organized interest groups, politicians and bureaucrats, or other elites. Moral panics often involve the use of highly charged emotional rhetoric appealing to common sense notions of right and wrong and pleas for the reassertion of authority and control. Moreover, the media often play ...

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