Moral Panic






For over seventy years, marijuana has been a growing problem in our society. Due to all of the controversy over this drug, there have been countless battles fought concerning marijuana’s capabilities. In the 1930’s, a moral panic surfaced with regard to the use of marijuana. The movie Reefer Madness is a perfect example of how the media stereotyped and distorted this new drug in order to construct it as a social problem, convincing society that this narcotic was single handedly destroying humanity.
Reefer Madness is a movie that was made to draw the public’s attention toward marijuana, the specific groups that were at risk, and the consequences that were directly related to using the drug. The purpose of this 1930’s film was to create a public fear for the well being of society. Knowing that this movie was made decades ago, it is clear to see that the movie exaggerated both the amount of terrifying behavior and the number of people involved in order to emphasize its detriments.
The movie portrayed marijuana as a drug that lured innocent teenagers into using it. Once under the influence of the narcotic, the teenagers went on to engage in many different acts of amoral behavior such as sex and other related crimes. During the 1920’s and the 1930’s, the media believed that violent behavior resulted from marijuana consumption. Of course there will always be extreme cases where these stereotypes do indeed take place, but for the most part the extent of the issues that this movie covered were extremely exaggerated and built up. It seemed as though the movie was made by bystanders that had never experienced the drug and had only done minimal research. Marijuana is in fact illegal and for reasonable cause, but it is proven that marijuana has therapeutic value and is unlikely to cause the moral dilemmas displayed in the movie. Often used for pain, in reality marijuana has mellow effects not accounted for and explained in the film.
Reefer Madness created many misleading scenarios, specifically for the purpose of amplifying the public’s concern for marijuana. Due to this unnecessary moral panic, society’s opinion of the drug changed dramatically. The movie heightened a panic that forced the public to fear and prohibit marijuana instead of working to use this potentially helpful drug responsibly and to the benefit of society. Without this movie, the resulting moral panic and harmful stereotypes could have been avoided, saving the ensuing social crisis.




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