The legalization of cannabis (marijuana) has been a topic of contention across the country lately. Over the past five years or so the push to legalize marijuana has been gaining momentum and dozens of states have reduced penalties, legalized medical use and even recreational use of marijuana. Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and most recently the District of Colombia. Now that marijuana is legal in the nation’s capitol it will be interesting to see if more states start to legalize the recreational the use of Marijuana.
There are many arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana. While reading chapter three of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty I wondered what Mill’s position would be on the controversy over marijuana. Mill talks about what restrictions there should be on a persons liberty when he says “But if he refrains from molesting others in what concerns them, and merely acts according to his own inclination and judgment in things which concern himself, the same reasons which show that opinion should be free, prove also that he should be allowed, without molestation, to carry his opinions into practice at his own cost.” It is clear that Mill would be in favor of legalizing marijuana. He would argue that using marijuana does not harm other people around the user, so there is no reason why it should be illegal. Many people would argue that marijuana should be illegal because it might be a health risk to the user. However, even if using marijuana is a health risk, it seems that Mill would maintain that this would not matter because it is not harming the people around the user and the user is choosing to consume the drug.
Mill’s thinking that people should be allowed to do things like consume marijuana as long as it doesn’t harm others is an interesting argument and is one of the many arguments for the legalization and use of marijuana. Another argument in favor of legalization is the large number of arrests associated with the drug. In 2012 there were 650,000 arrests for marijuana possession, which was significantly more then for other harder drugs like cocaine and heroine. Many people argue that resources and the police force are not put to good use enforcing marijuana laws because there are more important laws and regulations that need to be enforced. It is also unclear exactly what the health effects of marijuana are, but moderate use does not seem to pose a threat to a user’s health and it is clear that addiction problems are a minor issue especially when compared to alcohol and tobacco. Another argument in favor of marijuana is economic benefits and regulation. If marijuana were legalized then states would have the ability to regulate the drug to make it safer and tax and profit off of it. Colorado collected $7.5 million dollars in tax revenue from marijuana in the month of August.
There are also arguments against the legalization. Even though some states have legalized marijuana it is still a federal crime to be in possession of it. Another argument is that legalizing it would lead to an overall increased use of marijuana and might also encourage adolescents to use drugs. The health effects of marijuana are still unclear, and it can also be addictive. There many arguments for both sides of the issue and it will be interesting to see what the country does with the issue in the near future: if they will respond how Mill would respond or if they will respond differently.