Legalize it: A Utilitarian Perspective on the Legalization of Marijuana
The United States government claims marijuana use is harmful and addictive, thus has placed it on the Controlled Substances list as a schedule 1 class drug. This makes the possession and use of marijuana illegal, while the more harmful drugs of nicotine in the form of cigarettes and alcohol are legal for personal use. As a personal choice and a medicinal use, marijuana use should be legalized. This will be a utilitarian’s perspective on legalizing marijuana.
First, let’s start off with some information about marijuana, this way we are all familiar with it, and not just with information one may have picked up from television or misinformed people and misinformation. Marijuana, with the common name of Cannabis, comes from the plant kingdom of the family Cannabaceae. “The standard name of marijuana is Cannabis Sativa L” (FDA, 2012). According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s website, “Cannabis contains chemicals called cannaboids that are unique to the Cannabis plant. Among the cannabinoids synthesized by the plant are cannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabinolidic acids, cannabigerol, cannabichromene, and several isomers of tetrahydrocannbinol” (DEA, 2012). Besides these Cannaboids the other main cannabinoid of Marijuana that causes its effects would be delta-9-tetrahydocannabinol, the one everyone talks about, the great THC. “THC is believed to be responsible for most of the characteristic psychoactive effects of cannabis” (DEA, 2012). These substances carry many medicinal values and legalizing marijuana for medicinal and/or personal use would be beneficial for many people. For now in most states and federally, marijuana is illegal. (good research)
What makes marijuana a drug and illegal? The effects of ingesting or inhalation of the plant, which consist of a feeling of euphoria (feeling really good), oh no we wouldn’t want that now would we, relaxation, increase in appetite (munchies), this is at a low dose. Higher doses “can cause intensified feelings of the lower dose feelings, some hallucinogenic effects, short term memory loss, short attention span, and image distortion”(Spinella, M., 2001). I can understand why it would be illegal to drive after taking any form of marijuana, but, to make it illegal?
Since 1970, the United States government has listed marijuana as a schedule 1 narcotic on the controlled substances act list of controlled substances. From the Drug Enforcement Agency’s website, “Schedule I Controlled Substances:
Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. Some examples of substances listed in schedule I am: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), peyote, methaqualone, and 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“ecstasy”)” (DEA, 2012). Schedule 1 drugs are considered the “worst” drugs, these are worst and have no medical use compared to cocaine and oxycodone, which are schedule 2 class controlled substances. Marijuana to the government is considered worse than cocaine? We will cover this aspect in a little while, for now to be on the controlled substance list as a schedule 1 narcotic a substance must meet the following criteria:
A) The drug or other substance has high potential for abuse.
B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States
C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision (DEA, 2012)
Most of these criteria throughout this paper will be proven wrong, so then why is marijuana illegal? (good examples and questions)
The Relativist’s view on marijuana would be the one closest to what used to be mainstream society. Since relativism is “ the idea that one’s beliefs and values are understood in terms of one’s society, culture, or even one’s own individual values”(Mosser, K., 2010), this could be used as societies view of marijuana starting from the early 1930’s. Staring with propaganda films against marijuana like “Tell Your Children”, aka “Reefer Madness” (imdb.com, 2012). Films like this exaggerated the effects of marijuana. Misinformation was and still is a big contributor to why marijuana is still illegal, instead of becoming educated upon the subject people tend to stand by old mythical tales of marijuana. Examples of some myths, it will cause one to go crazy, causes lack of motivation, and it causes uncontrollable anger, all misconceptions and myths. There is plenty more which will be covered shortly. Even politicians are uneducated and misinformed before they pass laws or veto bills on marijuana, how is this fair to the voters and the people who could use marijuana for medicinal purposes? It is not.
As for the relativist, society has made marijuana illegal so, it should be illegal. This is changing, more and more states are legalizing marijuana for medicinal use, so society and the relativist view is slowly starting to change. Marijuana may be illegal by the federal government but, there are 17 states and Washington D.C. that have legalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Those states are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. This disproves the second criteria for a substance to meet to be a Schedule 1 narcotic.
A utilitarianism perspective on marijuana, which would be closest to my own, would be for the greater good. “Utilitarianism argues that, given a set of choices, the act we should choose is that which produces the best results for the greatest number affected by that choice”(Mosser, K., 2010). That choice should be for the medicinal value of marijuana, to help the people in pain to not be in pain. This also would in my view be a part of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, since people in pain are pursuing happiness by not being in pain. To help back the utilitarianism view as marijuana’s use as medicine, from the Marijuana Medical Handbook: Practical Guide to Therapeutic uses of Marijuana, “Marijuana has been used as a medicine since at least the 3rd millennium B.C., in China, it appears in the Pen T`sao as a remedy for gout, rheumatism, malaria, beriberi, constipation, and absent mindedness. Tradition ascribes the Pen T`sao to the legendary Emperor Shen-Nung” (Gieringer & Et AL., 2008). Many other cultures have used marijuana as an herbal remedy, as has the United States until it was first made illegal in 1937. (Good discussion / research)_
There are many, many medicinal uses for marijuana and this has been proven by many studies. Some of the medicinal uses of marijuana are:
A) Anti nauseant and appetite stimulant- this helps with nausea due to anorexia, chemotherapy, AIDS/HIV, and weight loss due to hepatitis C, to name a few.
B) Anti convulsant – helps with convulsions caused by: tetanus, hydrophobia(rabies), chorea, and strychnine poisoning
C) Anti spasmodic- “The THC in marijuana is effective in reducing spasms and relieving pain from spinal cord injuries” (Gieringer & Et Al., 2008). Also effective in reducing the effects of multiple sclerosis, spinal injuries, epilepsy, and many other conditions
D) Gastrointestinal disorders- helps relieve menstrual disorders, labor pain, tourette’s syndrome, and other movement disorders
E) Analgesic- marijuana can be used as a pain reliever; it is especially useful for chronic pain and migraines. “Using marijuana in place of acetaminophen which carries a substantial risk of fatal liver damage in excess dosage” (Geiringer & Et Al., 2008). Acetaminophen an over the counter drug that is used like candy and given to children.
F) Anti inflammatory and immune system modulator
G) Miscellaneous applications/ glaucoma, asthma, and many, many others
H) Lastly, Neuropathic effects, “Recent scientific studies have shown that the cannabinoids in marijuana are actually neuro protective, and can be used to prevent and treat toxic damage and inflammation of the nerves” (Geiringer & Et Al., 2008). \
So far the good seems to far outweigh the bad.
As with anything one may ingest or inhale into their body there are some adverse effects. These effects are few compared to the good that marijuana can do, but, the adverse effects do have to be taken into consideration. The relativist could use these as their support as to why marijuana should be kept illegal as society has kept it for so long. The adverse effects are: “Short-term marijuana by inhalation increases bronchodilation. However, long term it impairs lung function and leads to constrictive lung disease” (Mosey’s, 2010). Also, cardiovascular issues could occur, rapid heartbeat and increase in blood pressure. These tend to last only for a short time, but, can be harmful to someone with a pre-existing condition. Possible allergic reaction could cause some health concerns. As for dying from a marijuana overdose, there is no record of any person dying from marijuana. According to the book, Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence, “it would require 125mg of THC per kilogram of body weight to receive a fatal dose. Most marijuana cigarettes contain 20mg of THC. So, a 160 pound person would require all of the THC in over 450 joints to reach a lethal dose” (Earlywine, M, 2002). Crazy right, one would die of smoke inhalation before they died from the “drugs” in the plant itself. Yet it is still illegal. Still tobacco and alcohol are legal and they are proven to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths a year. (Well-developed key elements)
As for any long-term effects the plant has on the brain, “careful research on humans has shown no structural changes associated with chronic cannabis exposure in adulthood” (Earlywine, M., 2002). No damage to the brain besides short term memory loss while smoking, hmmm. Pulmonary research has shown no significant increase in respiratory illnesses, also “no data reveals any definitive increases in rates of lung cancer” (Earlywine, M., 2002). Some Lung airway problems have occurred, increase in irritation of the bronchial tubes and searing of the cilia (the little hairs in the lungs). As with inhaling smoke from anything, damage will be done to the lungs and airways. There is one way to combat the adverse effects of the smoke and that is to eat the plant instead of smoking it. Marijuana itself has not been proven to cause any form of cancer. However the smoke from marijuana has been proven to have carcinogens in it.
Now to go back to the criteria of making the list of a schedule 1 narcotic:
A) The drug or other substance has high potential for abuse /Marijuana can be abused, just like anything and everything. Soda can be abused and can be just as harmful as marijuana.
B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment / As has been proved earlier in this paper there are plenty of medicinal reasons and is currently starting to be accepted
C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision / The 17 states and D.C. that were mentioned earlier all have medical supervision safety rules put into place and they seem to be working fine.
So, the criteria for the Schedule 1 controlled substance act, is of no use, marijuana clearly does not meet the criteria, yet it is still illegal. The greater good of the majority of people would benefit from the legalization of this plant, the voters have proven this, and the politicians keep vetoing the bills.
Now on to the ethical questions one should ask:
Is it ethical to deny a dying person in pain marijuana for their comfort? At this point I am sure the person whom is dying will have no concern for the law and would use marijuana if they so chose, but, for purpose of proving a point I figured this was a good question.
Is it ethical to deny someone who has chronic pain a natural pain reliever with less harmful side effects? Most prescribed pain relievers contain acetaminophen, which can cause liver damage and failure. Then there are the other narcotics that are more susceptible to abuse and addiction.
Is it ethical to deny a person whom is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer a chance to relive some pain and calm the persistent nausea caused by the radiation? A natural alternative to help aid in the fight against cancer, to deny a person this is unethical.
Is it ethical to deny a person their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Marijuana, a plant, is the path for many to their pursuit of happiness away from pain, how can they be denied? (good discussion)
One of the biggest effects of marijuana being illegal would be the people who get sent to jail for possessing it. This tears families apart, people lose jobs and sometimes children get taken away. All from a plant that grows wildly across the world, how is this fair? The money gained from legalizing and taxing marijuana would be substantial, let alone the money saved from imprisoning people for possessing a plant. The tide is changing; the future of marijuana legalization for medicinal use and small amounts for personal use is on the way.
The perspective of utilitarianism on the legalization of marijuana for personal use and medicinal use is based mostly on the greater good for the people who suffer from a painful ailment. I would be one of these people; unfortunately, I live in a state where it is illegal personally and medicinally. If it was legal for medicinal use I would qualify for a few different reasons, mainly I suffer from chronic pain. Instead of being able to use marijuana where I would be able to function better, (I know from my own past experiences), my doctors have put me on several different pain medications. Most contain acetaminophen, which in the long run will probably cause me more damage, others I have to deal with side effects that are not that pleasant. Until marijuana is legal I will have to deal with these, until then I smile and hope. There are more and more organizations and groups popping up daily that support marijuana use, these groups are also dong one of the most important things in getting marijuana legalized, spreading knowledge.
Earlywine, M. (2002). Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. . Cary, N.C.: Oxford University Press Retrieved from: http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ashford/docDetail.action?docID=10084807&p00=marijuana
Gieringer, Dale Rosenthal, Ed Carter, Gregory T. (2008). Marijuana Medical Handbook: Practical Guide to Therapeutic Uses of Marijuana. Berkley, CA, USA: Quick Trading Company. Retrieved from: http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ashford/docDetail.action?docID=10330839&p00=marijuana
Hillman, G., (2012). Tell Your Children/ Reefer Madness.1938, Internet Movie Database, George A. Hillman Productions. Retrieved from: http://www.//imdb.com/title/tt0028346/
Marijuana. (2010). In Mosby's Handbook of Herbs & Natural Supplements. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/ehsmosbyherbs/marijuana
Mosser, K., (2010) Introduction to Ethics and Social Responsibility. San Diego, Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Retrieved from: https://content.ashford.edu
ProCon.org. (2012, June 1). 17 Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC. MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org. Retrieved from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881
United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) (2012). Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Retrieved from: http://www.justice.gov
United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), (2012).Poisonous Plant Database. Retrieved from: http://google2.fda.gov/search?q=marijuana&client=FDAgov&site=FDAgov&lr=&proxystylesheet=FDAgov&output=xml_no_dtd&getfields=*