Marijuana is an addictive drug which has been around for some centuries. The drug can be taken as medicine while sometimes people abuse for the purposes of relaxation. It is the abuse of marijuana which presents both ethical and moral dilemmas in the society. The concerned parties argue that continued and uncontrolled use of marijuana leads to loss of one’s moral values hence resulting to failure to articulate the various roles the individual is supposed to play in the society. It is therefore a challenge in the morality when it is not prohibited and decriminalized in our societies because its abuse in many occasions it leads to unethical practices especially to individual who are addicted.
In 1970s, legislation had separated marijuana out from other narcotics and had lowered the penalties and some jurisdictions decriminalized its possession in small quantities (Banks, 2004). It has been noted that the ethical concerns and law enforcement practices in relation to marijuana vary in many countries and therefore may result in acts of discrimination based on race of the individual in possession. Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) on the other hand says that the descriptions of marijuana effects include mild euphoria, a sense of well being, intensely concentrated attention punctuated by occasional distractions from immediate tasks and disturbances of short term memory and increased libido.
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Moral ethics behind marijuana
The major ethical concern about marijuana is its effects on thought, which is altering one’s state of consciousness. Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) says that marijuana can thus take individuals outside their normal modes of experiencing the real world and thus amplify subjective reactions to prevailing conditions both within and beyond the mind. In their studies Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) indicated that “smoking marijuana might not offer philosophically minded persons a special chemical avenue of profound and penetrating insight, so that trying to do philosophy high is unlikely if ever to produce fruitful results” (p. 6).
It is important that people who term marijuana as ethically accepted examine in detail the question of whether any ethical or moral objection can reasonably be laid at the idealized cannabis user’s door (Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick, 2010). Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) also argue that there seems to be no decisive moral, scientific health related or social policy objections to responsible cannabis use. In this context the authors to some extent find good reasons for relaxing anti-marijuana legislation and enforcement.
Further more Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) maintain that, realistically speaking people enjoy the effects of cannabis and want to use some kinds of drugs regardless of the law that prohibition has been a dismal failure as a deterrent. It has also contributed to an absurdly inflated prison population in many places where anti-marijuana laws are still vigorously enforced. The implication which needs serious consideration is that with all the social pain produced by cannabis prohibition, weighed against the ethical harm cannabis causes especially when compared with un-prohibited substances like alcohol it causes a lot of ethical concerns to a society. Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) says that individuals cannot overlook the economic opportunities under cannabis prohibition it appears that if anything it is the anti marijuana laws that are morally unjustified at least on the sort of consequentiality ethical principles.
In addition, Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) established that the potential harmfulness of cannabis in their view is vastly outbalanced by its potential for several categories of good, including but not limited to the medical psychic or spiritual and social. This means that there are good reasons for cannabis law reform, no good reasons for sustaining the status quo of cannabis prohibition and hence no moral justification for the continuation of anti-marijuana prosecution (Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick, 2010).
Basically, the morality of cannabis use and the conspicuous lack of moral justification for cannabis prohibition comes down to a matter of the moral right of responsible adults to experiment with and even to choose regularly to consume such psychoactive substances as cannabis provided that they can do so in ethically responsible ways. Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) continue to say that an extension of ethical justification not merely for the right to use cannabis but for cannabis use. Some people argue that cannabis use and its toleration under the law can be ethically justified as contributing to the happiness resulting from gratifying the natural desire to flourish of curious dynamic human agents (Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick, 2010).
Through adopting the ethical considerations about the basic human right to use marijuana applies the concept of the two principle questions of cannabis ethics, the morality of using, and morality of prohibition. Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) noted that it is unjust to prohibit responsible adults from experiencing the sort of human flourishing that can come about in several ways as a result of including in cannabis induced highs. An ethical consideration about cannabis is that if as a drug it can contribute to expansion of human capabilities then we can rightly be judged as enhancing the user’s personal flourishing thus securing in one stroke both the morality of cannabis use and immorality of cannabis prohibition.
Lenson & Land (1999) further said that the effect of marijuana on cognition is allied generally to aesthetics and this helps to explain why it leaves ethics unaffected. This implies that the moral and ethical detachment of the aesthete who seeks to harmonize sensual input no matter whether it is by other criteria creative or destructive, loving or hateful, silent or violent is not far from the ethical transparency of the marijuana user’s contemplation. As a result of this it is possible to attack marijuana from almost any moral and ethical [point of view. Lenson & Land (1999) says that for those who love work, it makes people lazy while for those who love peace can always find a hash head whose especial contemplation is of weaponry and slaughter. On the other hand those who love order can find marijuana users slovenly while those who love disorder can find them compulsive.
Marijuana permits a sort of cognitive re-synthesis as doe’s aesthetic experience in general. Lenson & Land (1999) says that it brings about an alienation from perception followed in most cases by an affective reconciliation. Marijuana is also transparent as far as ethics and the intellect are concerned. Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) continue to say that it can be legitimate moral objection to marijuana and its social and legal tolerance if its regular use as it is sometimes said deprives the user of sufficient motivation to act in accord with more important moral and ethical obligations and thus increasingly leading to one neglecting acquired moral duties for the sake of getting wrecked.
The ethical and moral challenge of using marijuana is to think of it as a substance that inherently robs a regular long term user of the moral will to meet independent responsibilities (Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick, 2010). It is important to look at its effects especially if marijuana undermines a user’s capacity for morally responsible decision and action by instilling or magnifying a preexistent weakness of moral will. Allhoff, Jacquette & Cusick (2010) noted that marijuana has weaknesses related to it being a gateway drug that leads cannabis users in the society to graduate to harder substances for example cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth. This possibility justifies marijuana prohibition due to the above ethical concern (p. 15).
It has been noted that for many people their use of marijuana does not constitute a problem (Emmett & Nice, 2008). The majority of these people does not think that they are suffering from psychological or physical problems as a result of their use and they are not in any danger of doing so. Emmett & Nice (2008) says that another major moral and ethical concern for marijuana users is that with time it reaches a point where it is adversely affects their physical and mental health, their finances, employment, relationships, education, their legal position and even accommodation. Other users according to Emmett & Nice (2008) despite clear evidence to the contrary still choose not to see their cannabis use as a problem and sometimes choose to transfer any problem back onto other who may be affected in the society. Based on the degree and length of time of their cannabis usage and depending on whether they use other drugs, Emmett & Nice (2008) says that there will always be mental health illness and other life problems.
According to, Hal & Pacula (2003) argues that the major harms arising from medical marijuana use are consequences of the fact that its use is illegal such as fear of arrest, a black market, and the adverse effects of reputation of a criminal conviction rather than consequences of its use. First & Tasman (2010) on the other hand have argued that the criteria for cannabis abuse are met when an individual’s cannabis use persists despite adversely affecting his or her life. The moral and ethical dilemmas faced by individuals diagnosed with excessive abuse of marijuana is failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home. First & Tasman (2010) also indicated that marijuana can result to physical danger, legal difficulties or recurrent arguments and disputes with others.
Moreover Hall & Pacula (2003), a major societal concern is that cannabis intoxication may impair the psychomotor performance of automobile drivers, increasing accidents among marijuana users who drive car while intoxicated. Hall & Pacula (2003) also indicated that “cross sectional studies of adults indicate that there is a relationship between cannabis use and a history of life delinquency” (p. 124). The ethical and moral concern is that there is a relationship between level of involvement with cannabis and frequency of property offences. Again Hall & Pacula (2003) also argue that longitudinal studies reveal an interesting pattern of relationships between cannabis use and crime which is a moral concern.
A case example of marijuana abuse is of Peter a neighbor. Peter was aged 16 years when he started abusing marijuana. Peter’s use of cannabis was at increased risk of adverse psychosocial outcomes thus increasing the ethical concerns in our society. Hall & Pacula (2003) say some of the effects of increased use of cannabis to Peter included impaired educational achievement, poor mental health, and criminal behavior and reduced life opportunities. He also experienced greater risk of using other drugs, engaging in delinquency, experiencing poor mental health, attempting suicide and doing poorly at school before they began to use cannabis (Hall & Pacula, 2003).
It has also been noted that early cannabis use as in the case of Peter also increases the chances of an unconventional lifestyle as a result of affiliating with delinquent and substance using peers and disengaging from conventional social roles such as completing education and obtaining a job (Hall & Pacula, 2003). Hall & Pacula (2003) indicated that “it is also important to note that the acute effects of cannabis intoxication may also play a role by encouraging impulsive behavior and impairing cognitive performance in the minority of students who are daily marijuana users” (p. 125). Glass (1991) noted that “chronic use of medical marijuana leads to an a motivational syndrome characterized by apathy, child like thinking, loss of interest in achievement, disorganization of lifestyle and a propensity to a fantasy” (p. 73).
Studies from Glass (1991) indicate that 25 per cent to 50 percent of unselected criminal populations abuse drugs of which cannabis is perhaps the commonest an issue which is considered to be an ethical and moral dilemma. He therefore indicated that the use of marijuana precipitates aggression in either normal or predisposed individuals in different circumstances. Glass (1991) indicated that “there is no direct correlation between the use of cannabis and violence and in the majority of cases the crimes attributed to the use of cannabis concern the theft of property and infringement of road traffic regulations” (p. 75).
In conclusion Glass says that marijuana has been therapeutically used for the treatment of hysteria, anorexia nervosa, epilepsy, rheumatism, bronchial asthma, pain, glaucoma, and nausea induced by chemotherapy (1991). However, chronic marijuana use is likely to lead to either deterioration in personality or an increase in aggressive potential hence leading to prolonged depersonalization and un-realization may occur. Solowij (1998) says that individual differences in vulnerability to the acute effects of cannabis are well recognized and are likely to a factor in determining susceptibility to cognitive dysfunctions associated with prolonged use of marijuana.
In this context continued use of marijuana leads to the experience of high levels of anxiety, and greater signs and symptoms of psychological distress or overt psychopathological symptomatology which can be depression and hostility. This is a key moral and ethical concern on the use of marijuana because such individuals cannot conduct themselves uprightly in the society. Goode (2009) also indicated that the moral concerns associated with marijuana are that people who are under marijuana influence are dangerous to his fellow man especially if he gets behind the wheel of a car. Combined with other effects it is important to recognize that marijuana should be used with prescriptions from the doctors because this implies that there is a controlled consumption of the drug.