Cultural And Societal Influences Of Marijuana Legalization



Criminal laws change to reflect the values of society and policymakers; therefore, public policy on crime is always changing. Acts that were once illegal are no longer prohibited by law, and misdemeanors are now felonies. For instance, from 1920–1933, it was largely illegal to sell alcohol in the United States. The recent legislative changes in some states regarding marijuana use provide another example of how the law can change to reflect societal values. Laws for prostitution and gambling have also varied significantly over time.

For this assignment, review the Required Resources and consider how statutory classifications of crime vary across time and place.

Provide a contemporary example (U.S. or international) of an act that has been criminalized, legalized, or switched from being a misdemeanor to a felony in the last ten years in response to the influence of societal factors (e.g., cultural values, political pressures or public morality). Explain the development of this change (e.g., criminalization, legalization) and the societal influences that you believe provided the impetus for this change. Then, explain the challenges or benefits of the law changing as a result of these factors. Justify your response.


Required Resources


Bureau of Justice Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from

This website provides links to statistical data on a variety of crime trends.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service. (n.d.). Topical index. Retrieved from

This website provides a keyword-searchable database of research and statistics on a wide variety of criminal justice topics.

NORML. (2014). State laws. Retrieved from

This web page provides a searchable map outlining the laws regarding marijuana in the United States.

Okrent, D. (2010, May). Wayne B. Wheeler: The man who turned off the taps. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from…

This article highlights how lawyer Wayne B. Wheeler was largely responsible for the U.S. adoption of Prohibition, which made the sale of alcohol illegal. The article details his considerable efforts to lobby and influence lawmakers.


A&E Television Networks, LLC. (2014). Bet you didn’t know: Prohibition [Video file]. Retrieved from…

This media piece provides a brief overview of the history of prohibition.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014). Criminal justice timeline [Multimedia file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

This timeline showcases important milestones in criminal justice and public policy and illustrates how policy changes over time.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. (n.d.). Watch a video. Retrieved from

This web page provides a collection of videos created by former law enforcement officers who now argue that prohibition and the war on drugs are ineffective and harmful crime control policies.