In criminology, moral entrepreneurs are actors who work towards influencing the adoption, maintenance, change, or discarding of a particular or set of deviant behavior. Howard Becker, who coined the word in ‘Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance’ believed that certain actors, individual or collective (groups), are ‘rule creators’ in the society. In his definition, Becker identified various groups such as pro-life, pro-choice, and the gun control lobby as moral entrepreneurs that work to promote specific issues. The main goals of moral entrepreneurs is to persuade the society towards making policy from particular viewpoints. In a study conducted by Becker in ‘Outsiders’ he found that drug laws took center stage for moral entrepreneurs who pushed for anti-drug legislations and punishment of users as violators.
A current development in drug law is a win for moral entrepreneurs calling for the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use. In the past, policies criminalized marijuana use but recently, marijuana’s moral entrepreneurs have achieved great successes in achieving legalization. In countries like Canada, South Africa, United States, and Australia, marijuana use has been legalized and past views that the drug is highly dangerous, addictive, and socially harmful are forgotten. Just like Becker found out, moral entrepreneurs, as active and visible agents of social change have the power to shift the public’s viewpoints and in effect, the policies on what’s considered moral.
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