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The Benefits Of Marijuana Legalization

2330 words (9 pages) Essay in Philosophy

12/05/17 Philosophy Reference this

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The economic recession that began around January 2008 has taking its toll on several fronts. The recession has affected the U.S. labor markets as seen in the rapidly rising unemployment and underemployment issues. U.S. jobs have declined by over 5 million over the past 12 months and the unemployment rate has risen to over 9%. The recession has also caused a steep decline in state tax revenues. As a result states are beginning to see very large budgets deficits. States are struggling to find other ways to shore up the loss in revenue that is needed to support public services.

California, the Golden State has reported a $20 billion budget deficit. The state is currently spending $400 to $ 600 million more a month that they are collecting in revenues. As the reality of the deficit becomes apparent to the leaders of California, the governor has asked for solutions to their problems. “What you can expect generally is no taxes and terrible cuts, absolutely terrible cuts,” said Governor Schwarzenegger to press secretary Aaron McLear. “We’re not going to get through the deficit we have without making some really tough decisions.” (www.sacbee.com)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, and the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators have said new federal aid was unlikely, given that California has already received billions of dollars from the stimulus package.”The federal government is not responsible for the state of California’s budget, and we look forward to hearing a sustainable plan for the state to get its house in order,” a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi said after the budget was released Friday May 14, 2010. (www.wstj.com)

While the state administration debates ways to reduce the large deficit one solution has been mentioned, the legalization of marijuana. It has been estimated that a legal market for marijuana could yield revenue of $1.5 to $2.5 billion a year. Total retail sales would result in a total economic impact of $8 to $13 billion a year. The state would also save over $160 million a year in law enforcement cost for arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment. Additional benefits would arise from more sales taxes from spinoff markets such as smokehouses, industrial hemp facilities and larger amounts of tourism. (www.canorml.org)

Over 1.6 million Californians have smoked marijuana within the past 30 days, according to the most recent National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, which found 5.6% of all Americans over the age of 12 are current marijuana users. According to the survey, one-third of this population, or 530,000 Californians are daily users. Taking this survey into consideration, the California administration believes there will be sufficient demand for this product. (www.canorml.org)

California has now added the Tax Cannabis Act to its November ballot which will be to legalize the cultivation, possession, and recreational use of marijuana. So why not legalize marijuana? There are several moral arguments that need to be considered: rights, justice, utilitarianism, caring, virtue and Christianity before any decisions can be made.

Rights

Marijuana was banned by The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 in the U.S. in 1937after 162 years of use. In 1937 Anslinger testified before Congress in favor of Marijuana Prohibition by saying: “Marijuana is the most violence causing drug in the history of mankind.” “Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. Marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes.” (www.hempcar.org) Many supporters of legalization of marijuana believe that the prohibition laws were passed based on discrimination and lies therefore violating human rights.

In general, a right is “an individual entitlement to something”. (pg 73, Velasquez) Rights are a powerful device according to Velasquez, when they are used to enable the individual to choose freely whether to pursue certain activities and to protect those choices. (pg 74) “Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. President stated during a speech on the 18th of December 1840, to Illinois House of Representatives. Allowing the government to control what individuals freely choose to do when they pose no threat to their community than they are letting the government violate their basic constitutional rights.

Justice

The production, distribution, and use of marijuana is a criminal offense under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act. Retributive justice refers to the “just imposition of punishment and penalties on those who do wrong.” (pg88, Velasquez) In 2007, police in Californian made over 60,000 felony and misdemeanor arrests of individuals possessing marijuana. If charged with possession of marijuana it will carry large penalties for offenders in the United States. The first offence could be a fine of $500 or up to 20 years imprisonment for third or more offences.

These arrests create permanent criminal records that could disqualify individuals for schooling, student loans, housing and most importantly jobs. The cost of law enforcement of the marijuana laws in California contribute to the economic problem by over $150 million per year. (pg 97) So the moral question is: Does the crime fit the punishment? How fair is this action? These questions of distributive justice arise when “different people put forth conflicting claims on society’s benefits and burdens.” (pg 88)

Utilitarianism

There are no arguments that there are a several side effects that come from smoking marijuana. The advocates for marijuana use believe the only side effect is it elevates the feeling of happiness. Jeremy Bentham states that, “the theory which accepts as the fundamentals of morals, utility or the greatest happiness principle, holds that one’s actions are right if those actions promote happiness and wrong if they produce negative effects. The happiness is intended to produce pleasure and not pain.” (pg 62) This ethical theory insists that the desire for happiness motivates human conduct.

Taking into consideration the utilitarian calculations, by using marijuana in the privacy of the individual’s home serves to increase their pleasure or greatest happiness principle. The government, therefore, has no right to prohibit what is ethically justifiable conduct. On the other hand for those individuals who argue against legalizing of marijuana believe that the use is wrong because marijuana destroys brain cells and could also be a “gateway” drug to more lethal drugs and narcotics. These advocates have successfully enacted prohibition laws banning the use of marijuana. Utilitarian’s stress, however, these advocates are acting unethically because they are decreasing the greatest happiness principle covered in the shield of upholding what is an essentially contested concept (pg 60), namely, “the common good.”

Utilitarianism is also the basis of the techniques of economic cost-benefits analysis. This type of analysis is used to determine whether its present and future economic benefits outweigh its present and future costs. (pg 63) The California administration believes that by legalizing marijuana they can tax it which will help eliminates the state’s budget deficit problems. This will also eliminate the $150 million dollars that are spent each year by enforcing the ban on marijuana.

Caring

Drugs that are deemed politically, socially, medically, or religiously unfit for recreational use are often banned. Ethic reasoning based on caring sees our communities and communal relationships as a fundamental value that should be preserved and maintained. (pg 103) The position on the legalization of marijuana is different for each individual. Those positions range from blanket prohibition to permitting use in small doses.

Advocates believe that legalizing the drug would be a good thing because it forces manufactures to meet regulation guidelines just like the manufactures of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. Currently legal drugs must have ingredients lists, warning labels and purity levels clearly stated on the containers. By providing a legal supply chain of the currently illegal drug the prices will fall which would theoretically lead to the collapse of the current illegal drug industry and also lead to a reduction in crimes committed by those illegal organizations. They also argue that there will be no change in the amount of demand for marijuana due to the inelasticity of the demand.

On the other side of the argument, advocates believe the state should not be involved in the distribution of substances that are considered unhealthy. They believe it is the states job to protect each citizen’s health and not contribute to exposing them to risky items. These advocates truly care for their communities by exhibiting the virtues of concern and love. (pg 103) These advocates are very concerned that the marijuana use will be dangerous to others beside the user. They are worried that it will contribute to the rise in health costs, create more violence that is always accompanied with drug use and most importantly contribute to the neglect of children that is always seen in drug-addicted parents.

Virtue

The debate going on in California over legalization marijuana has been a very controversial issue. It has been debated by both advocating sides of the issue. The advocates for legalizing marijuana argue from Aristotle’s moral virtue point of view. A person lives according to reason, Aristotle argued, when the person knows and chooses reasonable middle ground in his actions and desires: “Moral virtue is a mean between two vices, one of excess and the other of deficiency and it aims a hitting the mean in desires and actions.”(pg 110) With respect to consumable goods, temperance the virtue of being reasonable by indulging the desire but not in excess. Marijuana advocates reason that as long as it is used only for recreational purposes and not abused there should be no issues from Aristotle point of view for not legalizing it.

The advocates against legalizing marijuana argue from another moral virtue point of view. They argue that economic institutions or governmental administration make people greedy and large bureaucrat organizations make people less responsible. These organizations are morally defective because they tend to create morally defective individuals. (pg 113) These advocates fear that the State of California only concern is to fix its budget deficit problems at the expense of its citizen well being.

Christianity

The advocates against legalizing marijuana argue that the use of any mind-altering drug is morally and spiritually damaging therefore should be kept out of reach. The book of Galatians 5:19-21states, “The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery…drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Keeping this scripture in mind, by participating in these deeds of the flesh will excluded one from the kingdom of heaven. This scripture also proves that smoking marijuana would not be a good Christian activity one would want to participate in. The bible predicted that people would want to participate in bad behavior in a letter the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 which states, ” There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money…without love, self control, not lovers of good…lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” The argument is made that people will be lovers of the pleasures in life rather than lovers of God. The final argument is how can an individual focus on doing good works if their minds are clouded with marijuana smoke.

On the side of the debate advocates for legalizing marijuana argue that the current laws are an invasion of individual rights to make their own moral decisions concerning what they do in their own homes. Prohibition is allowing the government to make moral decisions for individuals and not allowing ones to be morally accountable for their own actions. The scriptures do talk about keeping church and state separate in Luke 20:25 which states, “He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Jesus also talked about this separating in John 15:19, “If you belong to the world, it will love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you.” It is also argued that although marijuana is not directly mentioned in the bible it does talk about how God gave humans plants and herbs to use for food. “Then God said, I give you every herb bearing [seed] plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it .They will be yours for food.” (Genesis 1:29)

The legalization of marijuana appears to have a lot of support in California. Activists believe that taxing marijuana production and sales would bail out the cash-strapped state. The point has been made that prohibition law has been a big disaster because it has wasted billions of dollars in law enforcement resources and made criminals out of normally law bidding citizens. There are on the other hand still a lot of activists that oppose decrimalizing marijuana. They argue that with recreational marijuana use comes impaired driving, crashes and injuries to innocent parties. Critics also worry social costs far outweigh the revenue it will bring in to the state. There are several measures that need to be met in order to grow support. First sales should not be outright legalized but regulated. Next the state would need to create laws to manage the production, distribution, and sales of marijuana. Finally marijuana should be managed and controlled using the guidelines the alcohol and tobacco industries follow.

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