John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher who contributed to political theory and he was a proponent of utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is a concept that an action is morally right if and only if it does more to improve over all well-being than any other actions you could have done in the circumstance. A believer in this would say: well-being is the only thing that is intrinsically valuable.
Let us pan out how in a Millian society with utilitarian values would make a decision on if something is acceptable and a scenario of proponents making the argument that marijuana legalization could argue they fit the criteria to be approved.
–>Identify what is worth having for its own sake – happiness, knowledge etc. Forget the side effects. Ask “Is there anything valuable about this?” If yes, then it is intrinsically good – value in and of itself.
Proponent: Marijuana provides many people happiness, a calm state of mind, it can de-stress and improve your overall take on life. It can encourage your sense of belonging by sharing with friends. It can even inspire you to explore and learn something knew thus increasing your knowledge. Take a look at this video of an elderly woman and her grown-up son smoking weed for the first time when it became legal in Washington. They are sharing a moment laughing and having a good time.
–>Identify what is intrinsically bad. Bad all by itself, apart from the regrettable results it might cause. For example, physical pain, mental anguish, sadistic impulses etc.
Proponent: Some can view certain side effects bad such as hunger, sleepiness, forgetting what something you were just doing etc and the consequences that could come out of having those side effects. In a Millian society we also have to ask if smoking marijuana will hurt someone else. The consequences of the negative side effects could harm someone else but that is why we also believe in a limited society where we can create reasonable policies that can prevent negative consequences. Such as *Do not drive while under the influence*.
–> Determine all of your options. “What choices do I have?” Pick the one that yields the best balance, the highest ration of good:bad.
Proponent W: To answer how much overall intrinsic value it will produce on society as a whole let us take a look at a different society that prohibits marijuana use and the impact of that policy: In Capitalandia this is what we have observed is the overall impact on society of prohibiting Marijuana:
- Oil-is a non-renewable resource that they are extremely dependent on. To better society they have been putting an emphasis on using bio-fuels but could easily go to the better alternative of hemp as a valuable and diverse agricultural crop. It can reduce carbon emissions and not increase the demand and prices of food.
- It has increased production in foreign countries and smuggling into Capitalandia bringing along crime and spending billions of dollars in an underground network that could be used on developments that will improve the society. So many people, a diverse pool too, use marijuana that prohibition on it cannot stop it.
- Mill is a proponent of this and he believes that it is okay to do something that will harm yourself if and only if it does not affect others. You might ask him “But isn’t is nearly impossible to think of actions that only harm yourself and no one else?” To this he would reply “Yes that is true however but when an overlap occurs it has to be impactful enough.”
- To go off this point, Capitalandia 700,000 people a year are arrested for marijuana. That same society, by the way, has the highest number of incarcerated citizens in the world. There are more bad actions that result in a greater harm to society that law enforcement could be focusing on. For example, sexual abuse, violent crimes, investigating corrupted politicians etc. It makes justice less efficient when instead they could tax Marijuana and provide the needed funding to improve the justice system among other institutions.
- Colorado has legalized marijuana and take a look at the positive effects that have been noted such as a positive drop in crime and the effects of the increase in tax revenue.
Proponent X: IF, an individual was committing actions that are not providing the best overall results on society, then society has a right to judge that person and make it known to the public that they are harmful and should be shamed for what they are doing. These people don’t feel any shame themselves and they have been very successful. Watch this entertaining video of some well known Marijuana smokers such as Richard Branson, Martha Stewart and Justin Timberlake.
Proponent Y: It is true that if someone does not like you smoking marijuana, it might negatively affect them in a sense of emotion (something a government cannot avoid through regulations) however people are allowed to have a certain right to individuality. This is a type of overlap that is minimal to the overall impact on society because it is not physically harming them and they could choose to accept the individual and easily remove the stress of disliking someone’s preference.
Proponent Z: When we pass up an action that would have had better results, we are always doing something wrong. So if we make Marijuana illegal and possibly suffer the negative results like Capitalandia, it could be argued that we are creating restricted lives and choosing the worse option. We have good intentions and they are morally good because they are reasonably expected to yield good results.
It might just be possible for Marijuana to be legal and regulated in a Millian society.