How The Social Contract Theory Prevents The
Legalization Of Marijuana Essay, Research Paper
One day you are sitting at your house with a couple of buddies just hanging out. One of your friends breaks out a little nicky jay. Do you take a hit? If you do, you are breaking the law, but should smoking marijuana be a criminal act if you do so responsibly?
Cesare Beccaria was one of the original developers of the social contract theory. He helped develop it expansively in his book entitled On Crimes and Punishments (1764). In it he states,
If we look into history we shall find that laws, which are, or ought to be, conventions between men in a state of freedom, have been, for the most part the work of the passions of a few, or the consequences of a fortuitous or temporary necessity; not dictated by a cool examiner of human nature, who knew how to collect in one pont the actions of a multitude, and had this only end in view, the greatest happiness of the greatest number (Beccaria, 1764).
This means that many laws are made by a few and not necessarily backed by the majority. In today s world there seem to be more people who agree that marijuana should be legalized than those who don t. There seems to be a few presiding opinions over the many in today s United States of America. If people who want marijuana to remain illegal would look at the facts, they would see their faulty beliefs.
It may be prudent to assume that others will act foolishly, or even recklessly, but it would be immoral to restrict personal liberties based on that assumption. If you choose to take an action that does not interfere with the rights of others, you have a right to take that action. The responsibility of the consequences are yours. Any attempt to prohibit action taken by individuals, which have no effect on society, is immoral. We have a right under the social
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contract to expect others to act rationally. Prohibition violates the presumption of rationality, and therefore, breaches the basic social contract. Regulations on the other hand, may be perfectly acceptable, even extensive ones when the activity in question is exceedingly dangerous.
The cost to society of keeping marijuana is illegal is greater that the cost of learning to live with them. The war against drugs has failed. The cost to society of keeping drugs illegal is greater than the cost of learning to live with them (Kinsley, 1988). The people in the marijuana industry aren t bad people; they come from all backgrounds and are generally good citizens. As long a marijuana remains contraband, there is no way for the government to regulate its sale. Under the current black market, marijuana is easier for kids to by that alcohol or tobacco (Rosenthal, 1996). Some parents don t want their children growing up in a country where smoking marijuana is acceptable. If they don t want them to smoke marijuana, they can raise them not to experiment with the herb. That is just the same as premarital sex, alcohol, or smoking cigarettes.
There are several reasons why marijuana prohibition is destructive and useless in America. First, marijuana stays illegal, while many legal drugs harm people every day. In its natural state, marijuana is relatively harmless. The National Institute of Drug Abuse pamphlet, For Parents Only: What You Need to Know About marijuana, states that: (1) marijuana does not directly cause mental problems, (2) there is little evidence that the drug is physically addicting and (3) there is nothing in marijuana itself that causes people to use other drugs (Rosenthal, 1996). No one has ever died of a marijuana overdose (Grinspoon, 1971). Tests performed on mice show that the ratio necessary for overdose of marijuana to the point of intoxication is forty thousand to one (Rosenthal, 1996). But, for legal drugs like alcohol, the
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ratios in the same tests are generally between four and ten to one (Rosenthal, 1996). In like manner, marijuana deaths average zero a year. In contrast, on average per year, tobacco kills 390,000 people, alcohol kills 80,000 people, second hand tobacco kills 50,000, and all illegal drugs except marijuana combined kill 4,500 (Rosenthal, 1996).
As long as marijuana prohibition is in effect, offenders will still be charged with unfair criminal sentences. Marijuana use is a victimless action. Yet thousands of people get locked up for it every year. Annually, American taxpayers spend $1.24 billion to keep drug offenders in federal prisons (Rosenthal, 1996). It cost more to send a person to prison for four years than it does to send a person to a private university for four years (Rosenthal, 1996). Certainly using marijuana is not as harmful as being locked up in prison. People in prison suffer some of the most brutal types of assaults and attacks imaginable. The damage to the physical and mental health of thousands of Americans as a result of arrest, incarceration, lost property, and humiliation is far more serious than any other medical damage ever reported from the use of marijuana. The dangers of incarceration however, like violence and rape, have been well documented (Rosenthal, 1996).
The social contract theory says individuals agree to give the state power over them, but only to the extent that is necessary to create order and harmony (www.crimetheory.com). After all, Beccaria states,
The end of punishment, therefore, is no other that to prevent the criminal from doing further injury to society. Such punishments, therefore, and such a mode of inflicting them, ought to be chosen, as will make the strongest and most lasting impressions on the minds of others, with the least torment to the body of the criminal (1764).
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If people who smoke pot aren t hurting anybody and not committing any serious crimes, why are the penalties for being caught so tough? The people aren t doing any harm to anybody but themselves and are willing to risk their health in later years.
The government has no right to determine how Americans think, that is a basic tenet of the United States democracy. Marijuana does not harm people. Marijuana affects the way a person perceives reality. Thus, the marijuana laws are the ultimate form of thought control, directing not only what we think, but how we might think (Rosenthal, 1996). Any marijuana use is defined as drug abuse, not withstanding extensive evidence that most marijuana users suffler little in any harm (Nadelmann, 1997). As far as marijuana impairing driving skills, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said that marijuana intoxication in drivers is in no way unusual compared to many medicinal drugs (Rosenthal, 1996). Also, unlike alcohol, which encourages risky driving, marijuana produces greater caution. In studies done by the NHTSA in the United States, they found that there were no indications of fatal accidents caused by only marijuana (Rosenthal, 1996). Furthermore, as far as marijuana being called a gateway drug, is ridiculous. Marijuana does not cause people to use cocaine, LSD, or even heroin because it does not change brain chemistry in a way that causes drug seeking (Nadelmann, 1997).
In short, marijuana is not as harmful to Americans as the prohibition of it has been. The war on drugs has failed miserably, and the American society is suffering economically from it. Marijuana has proven itself not to be harmful if handled the right way. Marijuana is not addicting like many drugs. The United States could grow further if the government would put an end to the prohibition of marijuana. The social contract is not agreed upon by everybody in our country and probably never will be, but numerous people are starting to believe that it should be
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legalized. Laws are supposed to be representative of a country s beliefs. It doesn t appear that the marijuana laws are so.