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Reefer Madness and beyond

Popular Culture, Crime and Social Control

ISBN: 978-1-84950-732-5, eISBN: 978-1-84950-733-2

ISSN: 1521-6136

Publication date: 8 April 2010


Purpose – This chapter analyses the independent U.S. film Reefer Madness, a fictional full-length feature about marijuana use and selling that has grown in cult status since it was produced in 1936. In addition, this chapter discusses a number of examples of early and contemporary illegal drug films that focus on marijuana, including a short film scene from Broken Flowers (2005).

Methodology – Drawing from critical and feminist criminology, sociology, and cultural studies, this chapter provides an analysis of fictional illegal drug films with a focus on marijuana.

Findings – The significance of a century of film representations that reinforce a link between illegal drug use, immorality, and crime is discussed. It appears that these themes are quite enduring.

Value – It is worthwhile to analyze illegal drug films, not just to explore the stigmatization of users, but to examine the social/political effects of these films, particularly the ways that certain kinds of negative images support drug regulation and its attendant policing.


Boyd, S. (2010), "Reefer Madness and beyond", Deflem, M. (Ed.) Popular Culture, Crime and Social Control (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-24.



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