Legalizing marijuana: Is it ethical?
There are many myths surrounding marijuana. One myth is that marijuana is harmful to your health. Truth is, “'the smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health.'” (Boire & Feeney, 2007)) Another myth is that smoking pot affects your memory and cognition. While it does affect your cognition and memory it only does so for the duration of the “high”. It is not a permanent condition. (Boire & Feeney, 2007)) Here are some facts about marijuana. Marijuana is the third biggest recreational drug used in the United States, behind only alcohol and tobacco. Many people believe it is unethical to smoke or possess the drug. But what makes it unethical? The answer to that lies within each of us. Some believe it is unethical because it is illegal, others believe it is unethical because it is a drug. For this paper, I will outline some of the uses of marijuana as well as some benefits. I will apply the classical theory of utilitarianism to resolve the issue of legalization while using the perspective of ethical egoism that this issue brings up. I will also include my views of these theories concerning the legalization of marijuana.
There are two main reasons people use marijuana. One main reason people use marijuana is for recreational purposes. Those that use marijuana for recreational use only do so occasionally, a small 1% do it on a daily or near daily basis. (Lucido 2012) I think this number is very low. If you look at the number of people arrested every year for a marijuana related offense you would see that the number is too low. In 2010 there were 853,838 Americans arrested for marijuana related offenses. (Smith 2011) That is nearly one person every 19 seconds. Those who use marijuana for recreational use believe that it is an ethical decision. I interviewed a friend who we will call Emily. Emily is a daily smoker. She has admitted to cooking with marijuana to get a “special high.” When asked if she thought it was ethical to possess and use marijuana, this was her response, “I think it is ethical to possess and use marijuana because it has been here since the beginning of time. It has been grown on this earth before any of us were even here so why should it be unethical and illegal?” She went on to say that there were never any reports of fatalities from someone being under the influence of marijuana bit there has been many from alcohol. The one question she asked me in the interview was, “Why is alcohol legal when it can lead to death and marijuana isn’t legal when nobody has ever died from it?” I did not have an answer. No fatalities have ever been reported when someone was under the influence of marijuana. There are at least 75,000 deaths a year from alcohol and it is legal. There are many people who think just as she does, many of whom do not smoke marijuana.
The other reason people use marijuana is for medicinal purposes. Medicinal marijuana has been proved to be beneficial in people with many medical conditions, one is cancer. It helps with the pain chemotherapy and radiation present as well as with nausea and the loss of appetite. It has also been proven to be beneficial in people with HIV/AIDS and their appetite loss. Medical marijuana also helps treat is Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with this disease benefit from marijuana because it helps with the agitation of the disease (Sanabria, 2007). By applying the classical theory of utilitarianism I believe we can resolve the issue of legalization. First we need to see what utilitarianism is. Utilitarianism says an action is right if it produces as much or an increase in happiness by all affected and wrong if it does not. So to answer the question of legalization with utilitarianism we need to see how many Americans would be happy with the legalization of marijuana and how many would not be.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2009 16.7 million Americans used marijuana at least once in the month before being surveyed (Barton, 2010). In 2008 that number grew to 18.1, you can imagine how much that number has increased over the past four years. According to the U.S. Census there are 305,375,125 people in the United States about half of them are adults (Mathre, 1997). The Gallup poll released a poll showing that fifty percent of Americans now want marijuana legalized. That number I believe will continue to grow. Many Americans believe it is the thing that will not only fix but secure the economy. The government could tax and regulate it as they do alcohol.
The government could also save money by not punishing those who have marijuana charges. A lot of resources are spent in arrests and prevention as well as in the campaign to eradicate the drug. This resources could be spent on other things like education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Thus creating more jobs and even further helping the economy. They have a chance to make big money on an industry that grows every day. The other half of the country opposing the legalization is doing it for reasons that are already happening. One argument from the opposing side is “that legalization will flood the country with cheap and available pot (increasing the experimentation among children).” (Chapkis & Webb, 2008). This is already a problem in our country. Cheap pot has been in this country for years and children have had access to it. The key is being responsible and not giving the children access to it. You have the power in your hands when it comes to that issue. The other argument is that it is the gateway drug, it leads to harder drugs. I have found four sources that say otherwise. With all this information and the majority of Americans wanting the legalization it would produce the most happiness to legalize it.
Going with the theory of utilitarianism it would be ethical to legalize marijuana. As a non-smoker I would agree with this theory. I believe legalizing marijuana would produce the most happiness for the overall majority. The Gallup poll indicated fifty percent however I believe that number is larger than recorded (Lehne, Crosby & Hamilton, 2004). Legalizing it would produce jobs. Jobs would include but are not limited to manufacturing and distribution. Not to mention the employees in the stores that would sell it. This country would also save on the money spent to incarcerate people for marijuana crimes. This could also produce jobs because the money could be invested elsewhere.
I do not understand how the government could not want all the revenue legalizing it would bring. I mean it is an ever-growing industry among Americans. I believe the numbers have grown and was wrong when recorded to begin with. It did not include localized people. Most of the poll was done in big cities or on the internet. On the other hand ethical egoism would say that Americans want marijuana legalized out of self-interest (Hashibe et al., 2006). Partly they are right. Some Americans want it legalized so they can use marijuana recreationally, and others for medicinal reasons. Those who use it for recreational use also want it legalized so they are no longer punished for using the drug. The part of the theory that is wrong is that legalizing marijuana is not only out of self-interest but in the interest of the whole country.
Barton, L., (2010). Illegal Drugs and Governmental Policies. Commack: Nova Science Publishers.
Boire, R., & Feeney, K. (2007). Medical Marijuana Law. California: Ronin Publishing.
Chapkis, W., Webb, R, (2008). Dying to Get High. New York: New York University Press,
Hashibe M, Morgenstern H, Cui Y, Tashkin D, et al. (October 2006). "Marijuana use and the risk of lung and upper aerodigestive tract cancers: results of a population- based case-control study"
Lehne, R., a, L., Crosby, L., & Hamilton, D. (2004). Pharmacology for Nursing Care. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Mathre, Mary., (1997) Cannabis in Medical Practice. Jefferson: McFarland & Co,
Sanabria, H., (2007). The Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean. Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon.