Moral panics and morality policy: The impact of media, political ideology, drug use, and manufacturing on methamphetamine legislation in the United States

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13 Scopus citations


The United States recently focused on the methamphetamine "epidemic", but little research has examined policies resulting from this increased attention. This study explores influences of state-level methamphetamine legislation during 2000-2007, with the goals of understanding themes of legislative responses, and assessing political, social, and media-related predictors on legislation. Nine themes of methamphetamine legislation were identified through a legal database: pharmacy precursor regulations, precursor sentencing, manufacturing/trafficking, possession, research/task force, prevention or treatment, law enforcement, environmental cleanup, and child protection. Logistic regression results largely support the moral panic literature by finding media's influence and methamphetamine manufacturing on legislation. Findings also suggest that law enforcement agencies participate in constructing the drug problem, which then drives legislation. Moreover, the drug problem is defined in terms of methamphetamine manufacturing rather than use and treatment, which are largely nonsignificant. Surprisingly, conservative political ideology predicted decreased legislation, suggesting that liberal candidates also raise concerns over methamphetamine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-534
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Drug Issues
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes



  • Legislation
  • Methamphetamine
  • Moral panic
  • Morality policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)

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