Ethical Dilemma in Drug Courts A Focus on Whether Marijuana Should be Legalized

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EthicalDilemma in Drug Courts: A Focus on Whether Marijuana Should beLegalized

Part1: Outline

  1. The problem

  1. Background: The issue of illicit drug abuse is perhaps one of the sensitive social problems that face the contemporary society.

  2. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the debate regarding decriminalization and legalization of the illicit drugs, questioning what position would be the most appropriate for the society to take.

  1. The Historical Context

  1. Marijuana Legalization in the 20th century

  2. The Marijuana legalization in 21st century

  1. Review of the literature

  1. Introduction: The research on whether marijuana should be legalized or not is torn between two sides: those supporting opposing the legalization, and those supporting the legalization. Each team has offered various plausible defenses for the sides.

  2. The Negative Consequences

  1. Drug gangs

  2. Marijuana taxation for revenues

  3. Marijuana legalization as a solution to disproportionate minority contact

  1. The Prospective benefits of Marijuana Legalization

  1. Policy implications

  2. Conclusion and Directions for future research

  1. Thesis recap

  2. The findings

  3. The personal position

  4. The concerns

  5. The directions for future research


Thispaper explores the question of whether marijuana should be legalized,an ethical dilemma touching affecting the drug court. It is firstacknowledged that theissue of illicit drug use is perhaps one of the sensitive socialproblems that faces the contemporary society. Jurisdictions have beengrappling to address the rampant substance abuse in vain. Thisfailure has paved the way for renewed discussions on whether tolegalize marijuana or not. The side advocating for legalizationasserts that the change could curb drug gangs, allow the drug tradeto be taxed and avoid disproportionate minority contact. The sideopposed to legalization argues that such policy could increasemarijuana abuse, aggravating the related social and health problems.Based on utilitarianism, it seems legalization may not be a popularapproach, after all. However, future research should endeavor toinvestigate and quantize the actual implications of marijuanalegalization to inform the policymakers.

Tableof Contents

Part 1: Outline 3

Abstract 5

Part 2: Annotated Bibliography 7

Part 3: Essay Discussion 9

Introduction to Marijuana Problem 9

The Historical Context 9

Review of the Literature 10

The Negative Consequences Legalization 10

The Prospective Benefits of Marijuana Legalization 12

Policy Implications 13

Conclusion and Directions for Future Research 13

References 15

Part2: Annotated Bibliography

Walker,S. (2015). Senseand Nonsense about Crime, Drugs, and Communities.8thed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Thebook by Walker (2015) presents different views regarding themarijuana legalization and decriminalization debate. In particular,the author argues that legalization of illicit drugs would escalatethat use of illegal drugs, notably among juveniles because they wouldbe accessible to any person in the society. The author alsorecognizes other views in support of illegalization of illicit drugs,especially the point that illegal drugs are harmful and addictive aand have adverse effects on the individual and community health.Indeed, some of the common effects of illegal drugs on users includeantisocial behavior, a decline in IQ, addiction, lower satisfactionwith life, mental problems, financial challenges, and poorperformance among students. Therefore, the society can only affordto adopt decriminalization of illicit drugs, which allows the drug tobe prescribed for use in isolated circumstances under the laws.

Thisarticle is relevant because it brings into light the variousdetriment sides of the marijuana legalization policies.

Hampson,A. J., Grimaldi, M., Axelrod, J. &amp Wink, D. (2014). &quotCannabidioland (−)Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants&quot.Proceedingsof the National Academy of Sciences.95(14): 8268–73.

Hampson,Grimaldi, Axelrod and Wink (2014) explore some of the physiologicalimpacts and side effects associated with the use of marijuana.Accordingto Hampson, Grimaldi, Axelrod and Wink (2014), the statisticstouching on the severe effects of illicit drugs, which range fromhealth complications and to antisocial behavior are so adverse thatthey cannot be ignored. For instance, it has been established thatover 242,200 cases of marijuana smoking complications among patientsare admitted for emergency care every year. Besides, it is affirmedthat about 40 percent of arrested criminals and suspects often testpositive for various illicit drug use, implying that the use ofillegal drugs encourages criminal behavior.

Thisarticle is relevant to the issue because it discusses some of theimpacts of marijuana on human health, which is insightful to thedebate.

Alyson,M. &amp Nushin R. (2014) ANew Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition.New York: New Press

Thebook by Alyson and Nushin (2014) covers some of the legal, social,and political developments regarding the issue of marijuanalegalization. The authors present different perspectives touching onthe benefits of marijuana, including curbing drug gangs, generatingtaxed revenues and preventing disproportionate minority contact. AsAlyson and Nushin (2014) discuss, the majority populations accountfor a small number of arrests despite recording a high rate ofinvolvement in the selling and use of illicit drugs. They furtherindicate that persons from minority racial and ethnic groups accountfor four times the number of persons arrested for illicitdrug-related cases compared to white counterparts. Furthermore, theprohibition of illegal drugs has been noted to escalate the formationof gangs by drug barons to protect themselves.

Thisarticle presents the benefits of the marijuana debate, which drugcourt policymakers may consider while formulating the legalizationpolicies.

Part3: Essay DiscussionIntroductionto Marijuana Problem

Theissue of illicit drug abuse is perhaps one of the sensitive socialproblems that face the contemporary society. Since the use of thedrugs is conceived to be accompanied by far-reaching consequences,the core focus of such discussions has been how the drugs could becontrolled to prevent the related adverse effects. Prohibition of useand possession of the illicit drugs also referred as criminalization,has been perhaps the most common approach to the issue. Undercriminalization, individuals found to be possessing, selling,manufacturing, or using the illicit drugs would be arrested, tried,and sentenced in the court of law as a measure of punishment anddeterrence. Building on the strategy premises, many jurisdictions inthe world focused their efforts on developing effective enforcementpractices. However, despite the stringent forms of enforcement, thetrends in the use of illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, andheroin have persisted, eliciting question on what steps should beundertaken to curb such a trend. The response to the issue has beenmarked by divisions in views, with some advocating for continuedcriminalization, while others argue for alternative strategies suchas decriminalization and legalization of drug use and possession. Itis worth noting that different countries and some states in the U.S.have already gone ahead and implemented legalization anddecriminalization policies and illicit drugs such as marijuana, butthe key emerging question remains whether such strategies are anybeneficial compared to the criminalization approaches. The purpose ofthis paper is to explore the debate regarding decriminalization andlegalization of the illicit drugs, questioning what position would bethe most appropriate for the society to take.

TheHistorical Context

Althoughthe marijuana debate only gained momentum with the last few decades,the genesis of the issue traces to the last century. The origin ofthe debate can be seen to have been stirred by reggae singers such asPeter Tosh, who advocated for the legalization of the drug in the1960s. By 1970, the movements advocating for the legalization ofmarijuana had already gained momentum. However, it was not until therecent decades that different jurisdictions started consideringlegalizing marijuana. In 2014, Colorado became the first country todecriminalize marijuana, allowing the dispensaries to sell the drugfor recreational uses. However, the California marijuana laws hadserved as the precedent for the legal reforms. About 20 states nowallow the selling of marijuana for medical purposes. However,policymakers are now considering that decriminalization is not allthat the society needs, but legalization of the drugs. Consequently,the drug courts are now engaged in discussions on just whether thelegalizations of marijuana could be beneficial or detrimental to thesociety.

Reviewof the Literature

Theliterature on whether marijuana should be legalized or not is tornbetween two sides: those supporting opposing the legalization, andthose supporting the legalization. Each team has offered variousplausible defenses for the sides.

TheNegative Consequences Legalization

Walker(2015) argues that legalization of illicit drugs would increase theuse of illegal drugs, particularly among juveniles because the drugswould be accessible to anyone. Other sentiments in support ofillegalization of illicit drugs consider that illegal drugs areharmful and addictive, and reckon that the society cannotunderestimate their adverse effects. Some of the common effects ofillicit drugs on users include antisocial behavior, a decline in IQ,addiction, lower satisfaction with life, mental problems, financialchallenges, and poor performance among students. In other words, thesociety can only afford to adopt decriminalization of illicit drugsfor which is illegal drugs such as marijuana can only be prescribedfor use in isolated circumstances under the laws.

Accordingto Hampson, Grimaldi, Axelrod and Wink (2014), statistics touching onthe severe effects of illicit drugs, which range from healthcomplications and to antisocial behavior, are well documented. Forinstance, it has been established that over 242,200 cases of illegaldrug smoking complications among patients are admitted for emergencycare every year. Besides, about 40 percent of arrested criminals andsuspects who are arrested t often test positive for various illicitdrugs, a scenario that means the use of illegal drugs encouragescriminal behavior.

Moreover,McKim (2012) discusses that the use of marijuana is also associatedwith the abuse of other illicit drugs. Ideally, about 62 percent ofpeople who abuse marijuana before the age of 15 years tend to beabuse other drugs such as cocaine and heroin at certain stages intheir life, while another 54 percent is likely to indulge in theabuse of mind-altering therapeutic drugs. The United StatesDepartment of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA (2015)affirms that marijuana and alcohol have been prevalent in bloodsamples of drivers involved in most of the road accidents, meaningmarijuana causes disorderly conduct. Several discussions havehighlighted other severe effects on the use of marijuana. Forinstance, Riedel and Davies (2015) observed that some of theimmediate effects of illicit drugs are worsened body coordination,increased heartbeat, and disorientation. These effects areaccompanied by depression, lack of sleep and panic attacks. Thebiggest problem of drug use is the retention of the active componentssuch as HTC in the body before the body can completely remove alltraces of the drug. Smoking of illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin,and marijuana pose a risk of cancer because the drugs have about 70percent of chemicals responsible for the development of the cancerouscells in the throat and lungs. Apparently, the smoke from illicitdrugs poses more danger (5 times) to the lungs, brain cells and thestructure of the sperm cells leading to sterility, compared totobacco smoke (Riedel and Davies, 2015).

TheProspective Benefits of Marijuana Legalization

Severalarguments have been cited in defense of marijuana legalization. Tobegin with, different proposals have raised concerns about theability of enforcement agencies and policies to curb illegal drugabuse. The number of illicit drug users has been graduallyincreasing, while the number of persons found in possession ofillegal drugs has remained high over time despite implementation ofvarious measures and enactments. For instance, Alyson and Nushin(2014) discuss that, in 2013, the number of people arrested forpossession of illicit drugs in the United States was over 693,482,representing a significant 45 percent of all drug law relatedviolations. Additionally, 80 percent of the total arrests accountedonly for possession of illicit drugs. Moreover, arrests related topossession of illegal drugs were established to be higher comparedviolent crimes. About 43 percent of the U.S population admits havingabused illicit drugs at some point in their lives (Alyson and Nushin,2014).

Accordingto Alyson and Nushin (2014), the majority community accounts for asmall number of arrests despite recording a rate of involvement inthe selling and use of illicit drugs comparable to the whiteimmigrants. They further indicate that persons from minority racialand ethnic groups account for four times the number of personsarrested for illicit drug-related cases compared to the whitecounterparts. Furthermore, the prohibition of illegal drugs has beennoted to escalate the formation of gangs by drug barons to protectthemselves. Drug-related gangs account for hundreds of thousands ofdeaths of people, including the police (Kirkland, 2015). Notably,advocates cite that crime rate in various states that have embraceddecriminalization of illicit drugs has reduced significantly with nosignificant increase in illegal drugs (Alyson and Nushin, 2014).


Asnoted, arguments presented for each position are well reasoned andare a serious dilemma. Certainly, the issue needs to be examined withobjectivity, questioning the approach that would most likely maximizethe outcomes as guided by utilitarianism. Indeed, prohibition mayhave failed to constrain people from using the drug — if only, ithas resulted in problems such as disproportionate minority contact,gangs, violence, and corruption. On the practical basis, legalizationtends to be the preferable approach because it does not only enablethe society to overcome challenges typical to prohibition such asdisproportionate minority contact, gangs, violence, and corruption,but also creates the allowance for the states to tax and generaterevenue for the illicit drugs business. Besides, authorization alsoestablishes the allowance to set control regulations such as who touse and when to use — in the manner that the alcoholic drinks arecontrolled (Kevin, 2015). However, this step would escalate the useof illicit drugs because people will now abuse it freely. This actionwould result in adverse consequences that overshadow the benefits.While decriminalization would have been an option, it is stillpremised on the framework of legalization, which means it will mostlikely still produce poor results. For instance, it will alsoencourage the increased use of illicit drugs and support adversesocial and economic complications. The jurisdictions should payattention these concerns.

Conclusionand Directions for Future Research

Ithas been noted that the issue of whether to take either approach is adeep dilemma to resolve. It must be thought objectively and, ifpossible, involve conducting some researches to inform thecost-benefit analyses of marijuana legalization. Although thearguments proposed for the decriminalization of illicit drugs arebased on plausible reasons, it is necessary to assess both positionsbased on utilitarian point view, considering the approach that wouldmaximize the outcomes. Criminalization happens to be the mostsuitable approach. The decriminalization or legalization of illicitdrugs will escalate the use, increasing the harmful impacts on thesociety in such as a decline in the intelligence quotient, antisocialbehaviors, lower satisfaction with life, addictions, financialchallenges, mental problems, and poor performance at work and school.Although legalization has been subject to certain, inherentshortcomings such as failure to curb the rising incidences of illicitdrugs use, the emergence of uncontrollable drug gangs anddisproportionate minority contact, such issues are not comparable tothe adverse effects that will follow if illegal drugs were legalizedor decriminalized. However, this opinion is largely theoretical.Therefore, the future research on the legalization of marijuanashould be oriented towards ascertaining the actual costs and benefitsof either side to inform practice. Otherwise, as the situationsstand, it would be inappropriate to rush the implementation of themarijuana legal reforms.


Alyson,M. &amp Nushin R. (2014) ANew Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition.New York: New Press

Hampson,A. J., Grimaldi, M., Axelrod, J. &amp Wink, D. (2014). &quotCannabidioland (−)Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants&quot.Proceedingsof the National Academy of Sciences. 95(14): 8268–73.

KevinP. (2015). HillMarijuana: The Unbiased Truth About the World`s Most Popular Weed.Center City, MN: Hazelden.

McKim,W. (2012). Drugsand Behavior: An Introduction to Behavioral Pharmacology.Prentice Hall.

Riedel,G. &amp Davies, S. N. (2015). &quotCannabinoid Function inLearning, Memory and Plasticity&quot. Handbook of ExperimentalPharmacology. Handbookof Experimental Pharmacology.168(168): 445–477.

Walker,S. (2015). Senseand Nonsense About Crime, Drugs, and Communities.8thed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Kirkland,O., (2015). DrugCartel and Gang Violence in Mexico and Central America: A ConciseIntroduction,Cognella Publishing, First Edition, ISBN: 978-1-63487-039-9

UnitedStates Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA(2015), Drugs of Abuse-2011 Edition-Resource Guide, Washington D.C.