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    Data for this paper were gathered as part of a larger study, Problem Drinking, Delinquency and Maturational Reform, supported by grant AA02620 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The analysis was supported by a grant from the Graduate School and administered by the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center, Washington State University. The authors wish to thank Kevin Wong for his assistance with the analysis and several anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions.

  • Steven R. Burkett is Associate Professor of Sociology and Assistant Dean of the Graduate School at Washington State University. His research interests include the study of adolescent drinking and drug use.

  • David A. Ward is Associate Professor of Sociology at Washington State University. His research interests include testing issues surrounding the question of deterrence using both laboratory experiments and survey data and the application of deviance theory to problems of alcohol and drug use.


Empirical investigations of social control mechanisms are often limited to single sources of control, such as the efficacy of legal punishments. Because research has produced only moderate support for the hypothesis that perceived risk of legal punishments reduces the likelihood of nonconformity, some have searched sources of control that condition this relationship. such as the degree of moral condemnation individuals hold toward a criminal/delinquent act. However, relevant research has resulted in contradictory findings. Using cross-sectional and panel data, we obtained results that show that moral condemnation of an act conditions the deterrent relationship and that findings from previous studies may have underestimated the effect of legal deterrents given the presence of those in the population who refrain from marijuana use because it is believed to be sin fur. Implications of the findings for the relative deterrability of serious versus minor offenses and the relevance of this distinction for issues of social control are discussed.