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Mill’s Real View on Marijuana Legalization And the Actual Societal Consequences

April 9, 2011

An individual smoking marijuana in his or her basement has no immediate negative impact others.  It can even be true that a person smoking marijuana in an open environment does not affect others.  I see no problem legalizing marijuana as people should be able to make decisions over their own health.  Well, as long as the smoking truly does not affect me.  Many people take the near-sighted approach to the consequences of marijuana smoking (even smoking in general) on society and thus conclude that a person smoking has no impact on others.  I strongly disagree.  If we are to legalize marijuana, we will be forced to reform other laws to ensure that marijuana smoking truly does not impact others. 

Now, if we examine marijuana use with foresight, we can determine the consequences are not only in the present, but also linger on in the future, and as a result affect society.  Let’s simply take in the facts.  The definition of a carcinogen is a substance that tends to produce cancer.  Marijuana has hundreds of ingredients, some of which are tar, carbon monoxide, and cyanide.  Further, many of the carcinogens in tobacco smoke are also present in smoke from marijuana.  Studies have shown that marijuana smoking makes people more likely to develop lung cancer.  Although correlation does not imply causation and I cannot definitively say that marijuana smoking CAUSES cancer, I can state that studies are getting ever closer to proving it.  Testing has revealed that marijuana smoking damages DNA. Marijuana smoking causes cell damage and inflammation and this has been connected to pre-cancerous changes in lung tissue. Marijuana has a proven association with suppressing the immune system, and this is the reason why many theorize that smokers are more susceptible to cancer than non-smokers.

  If there comes a time 5 years, 15 years, or even 25 years from now such that there is conclusive evidence that marijuana does cause cancer then there is a predicament created.  Let’s say a marijuana smoker named Joe smokes marijuana in his basement for several hours daily.  He is marginally employed as may be a symptom of a-motivational syndrome caused by marijuana.  Thus, he by no means has the financial power to sponsor large healthcare expenditures.  As established above, if there is a causal link to marijuana smoke and cancer, and Joe develops lung cancer, someone will have to pay for his treatment.  Again, we all agreed that smoking marijuana is fine as long as it does not affect me.  Nevertheless, under Obamacare, everyone will be given healthcare whether they can pay for it or not.  That means that I will have some responsibility to fund his lung cancer treatment that was caused by his marijuana smoking.  And again, if a causal relationship is established, the cancer incidence rate will be higher for individuals smoking marijuana.  That means higher aggregate healthcare costs.  Those costs are going to burden me.  I am fine paying for some healthcare costs, because I want to ensure that children can receive vaccines, and those on Medicaid or Medicare can receive adequate coverage.  Remember we agree that I will not be affected by your smoking.  If you make me pay for treatments caused by your smoking, as established above, I am affected because I must pay money.  If people truly believe in the notion that I am not affected by others’ smoking, and down the line a causal relationship to cancer is found, you must agree that I and society should not be burdened with paying to keep you alive or to help you recover from lung cancer.  I reiterate again that if it can be determined that marijuana causes cancer, then I say marijuana smokers and I should work together to develop a statute in the healthcare system where marijuana smokers who cause their own lung cancer should not receive healthcare benefits (treatments) at the expense of society.  Therefore, marijuana smokers should be adamant in coming to terms with the consequences they cause and thus agree to remove moral hazard out of its current place in society. 

In conclusion, I say that marijuana smokers must be ready to pay for their lung cancer treatment bills in full, and if they cannot, hope that someone who worked to attain money is willing to finance their preventable disease, and if there is no such person, be willing to die of cancer with effective treatments looking at them straight in the face.  Again we all agree that I should not be affected by someone else’s marijuana smoking if it is legalized.  Thus, Mill would say that if we were to legalize marijuana, we must reform parts of our healthcare system so that others are not affected financially.

  1. Bri Kovan permalink
    April 10, 2011 3:32 PM

    I understand where you’re coming from with your post, and how you relate it to Mill in its relation to its long term effects on you. I completely understand — nicely argued.

    My problem arises with other similar substances that are legal in today’s society, for example cigarettes and alcohol. Cigarettes are obviously known to lead to lung cancer, which would fall into a similar situation as described above. In this sense, do you think cigarettes should also be illegal?

  2. April 10, 2011 10:38 PM

    I have a liberal philosophy so I am not saying that we should outlaw marijuana, cigarettes, or alchohol for that matter. I am simply stating that we need to address the issue of moral hazard so we can truly claim that the action of smoking does not affect others. I believe in resopnsibility for one’s actions and this should extend to cigarette smoking. A world embedded with moral hazard is one in which our choices do not matter. I simply advocate a society where careful decision making is rewarded and those contrary and not promoted.

  3. mstranseth permalink
    April 12, 2011 1:44 AM

    I have no problem legalizing marijuana, or even your argument that smokers of all varieties must take responsibility for their own actions. My problem is when you bring healthcare into the debate. I’m not a fan of paying for someone else’s healthcare with my tax money as well, but that argument can be applied to a wide variety of health issues to simply use it for health issues caused by smoking alone. For example if a person maintains a very inactive lifestyle, eats poorly, develops diabetes and a heart condition without the funds to pay for healthcare, Obamacare would have yourself and I pay for their treatment as well. Is it morally right to pay for their mistakes? That lifestyle is just as unhealthy as smoking and leads to the same effect.

    Good post though. It does promote thought, even if I don’t like the argument you are using.

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