Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

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Map of marijuana laws in the US. Green: State with legalized cannabis. Dark Blue: State with both medical and decriminalization laws. Medium Blue: State with legal medical cannabis. Light Blue: State with decriminalized cannabis possession laws. Grey: State with total cannabis prohibition.

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.

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Colorado made $7.5 million dollars in tax revenue from marijuana in August.

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.

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6 thoughts on “Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

  1. I agree with your analysis of Mills perspective. Mills promotes a highly individualized lifestyle and tis he would see nothing wrong with an individual’s decision to smoke marijuana if it does not harm others. The only question I would propose would be when smoking marijuana could be considered harming to others?

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  2. I completely agree in the fact that Mill would agree that marijuana should be legal because it really doesn’t harm others. It’s ridiculous that our tax dollars and police forces go towards catching teenager smoking marijuana in the woods, when there are murderers and rapists out there to track down. Mill says that individuals should have their own freedoms to do what they want if it doesn’t affect others. A large amount of people see how the legalization of marijuana would help our economy, and therefore society grow, which is probably why the movement has been gaining so much momentum recently.

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  3. I agree with the argument that if it isn’t harming anyone we should be free to use it, but I think some people’s beliefs are that we DON’T know what problems it can be causing that we are ignorant to right now, but in the future we can find out at by then it could be too late if we legalize it everywhere. People are still remembering how no one knew cigarettes were as harmful as they are, they may feel the same thing will happen with marijuana.

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  4. I definitely think Mill would be in support of the legalization of marijuana. A person isn’t hurting anyone but themselves when they use it and there are so many other issues our tax dollars could be going towards solving. Maybe we should have restrictions on it so as to curb usage amongst adolescents and such, but that’s completely reasonable. We have restrictions on cigarettes and alcohol as well.

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  5. Mill would certainly support the legalization of marijuana under the pretense that you’re not harming any one else when you’re consuming it. It would, however, come into conflict with his harm principle when it comes to things like being under the influence of marijuana and driving. Just like driving drunk, your body and brain are not at their full capacity and your attention will likely not be 100% focused on driving. Just as with alcohol, you are “under the influence” of the effects of marijuana and while its great that we’re seeing the government encroach less and less upon our rights, we must ensure that we understand the way it effects our bodies so that we may not have to suffer numerous casualties as the result of “high driving.”

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  6. I think your analysis of Mill is good, but the only question is whether Mills ideas on individualism are considered with Marijuana in terms of the harming of others. Technically it can be consumed in ways that aren’t harmful to others, but the trade itself has harmful qualities to it. Would Mill argue that the illegal sale of Marijuana is against liberalism?

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