A Look at the Ethics of Marijuana

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A Look at the Ethics of Marijuana Legalization
Martha Hays
SOC120: Introduction to Ethics and Social Responsibility
Instructor Michelle Gardener
March 18, 2013

A Look at the Ethics of Marijuana Legalization
The topic that I am writing my paper on is legalizing marijuana. The topic of legalizing marijuana is controversial and often debated. In this paper I will discuss the ethical issues that come up on both sides of the issue as well as my own personal opinion. With marijuana legalization being a topic that I have heard a lot about and read up on the purpose of my paper will be to discuss the ethical issues that are put forth by both sides. I recently read an article that states, there’s no good reason for any government to ban marijuana, which causes demonstrably less harm then legal alcohol and tobacco; rather , it is marijuana prohibition that is harmful—to otherwise law-abiding citizens and to taxpayers (legalizing Marijuana: the states case, 2012). This if true makes me wonder why alcohol and tobacco are legal and marijuana is not. There are many pros and cons in the debate on marijuana legalization. Both the people for it and those that oppose it have valid points. In this paragraph I will discuss the legal history of marijuana in the United States. Marijuana is a popular drug in the United States. It is known by many names, they include ganga, pot, and cannabis. Marijuana was first included in what was called the Poison Act in 1907, although I was not able to learn much about it in my research. I do not believe that it was ever enforced. I read an article in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs that states, The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively outlawed the drug throughout the United States (Duke, S.B., 2010, p. 84). This act made it illegal to possess or sale marijuana unless you paid a tax. The possession of marijuana was given mandatory sentencing in the Narcotics Control Act of 1956; this was overturned in 1970 by congress. In 1974 it was put into the Dangerous Drug Act alongside LSD and heroin. Efforts to legalize marijuana began in the 1970’s, first for medical use and then for recreational use. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively outlawed the drug throughout the United States (Duke, S.B., 2010, p. 84). This act made it illegal to possess or sale marijuana unless you paid a tax. The possession of marijuana was given mandatory sentencing in the Narcotics Control Act of 1956; this was overturned in 1970 by congress. In 1974 it was put into the Dangerous Drug Act alongside LSD and heroin. Efforts to legalize marijuana began in the 1970’s, first for medical use and then for recreational use.

In my opinion the best way to approach the subject is with the ethical theory of utilitarianism. Our text states, utilitarianism argues that, given a set of choices, the act we should choose is that which produces the best results for the greater number affected by that choice (Mosser, K., 2010, sect 1.7). We need to look at whether legalizing marijuana would affect more people in a positive manner rather than a negative manner. The aspect of whether or not to legalize marijuana for medical use also needs to be explored. It is not just about recreational use, there are a great many people who believe that marijuana is a natural medicine and can be used instead of chemicals to treat certain conditions. But there are still many ethical issues to work out. I believe that if marijuana does have medicinal properties that we should make it available to the people who need it. As of right now there are eighteen states that have legalized medical marijuana while two states have legalized it for recreational use. According to some of my research medical marijuana is used to treat nausea, weight loss, loss of appetite, and the treatment of other painful conditions. There are cancer patients that smoke marijuana during chemotherapy and radiation treatments because it helps with nausea and helps to...
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