20 February 2012
The legality of marijuana is a very heated subject. It is argued across the globe by all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. In this technologically driven modern age, it is debated in every level of society, from the federal and state governments, to the internet, to awareness groups, and even to medical doctors. There are many reasons that are presented to argue whether or not marijuana should be legal, and if so, then to what extent. The vast number of ethical theories that are available to and used by those that argue present thousands of possibilities. In this essay, two prominent theories will be compared head to head on the legality of marijuana. These two theories are Utilitarianism, as outlined and idealized by the nineteenth century thinker John Stuart Mill, and Kantian ethics, first proposed by the eighteenth century philosopher Immanuel Kant.
The Utilitarianism that Mill provides is a form of consequentialism. A 'good' decision or act is one that benefits the most people. Laws, personal opinions, and any other concerns are secondary to happiness. Pleasure is all that is desirable for humans, and so it is the end goal of any decision-making process. Because of this, Mill's Utilitarianism is commonly referred to as the 'greatest happiness' principle. It follows then that in the realm of marijuana legalization, a utilitarian would assert that whichever possibility reaches the greatest aggregate happiness is the right choice to make.
Kant, on the other hand, proposes a much more radical, conservative philosophy. His take on philosophy is centered around the highest duty that humans have, that is the duty to reason. This duty is called a 'Categorical Imperative', in layman’s terms, motivation to act according to reason. The three rules, or 'Formulas' of a Categorical Imperative are that first one should only act on reasons that they would will everyone, under the...