Discussion 16: John Stuart Mill on Marijuana.

Question: What would John Stuart Mill argue about the legalization of Marijuana? Would it matter if some users went on to smoke cocaine or do other drugs?

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About the legalization of marijuana, John Stuart Mill would use the harm principle, published in his work, “On Liberty” which states that, “the sole end of which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their member is self-protection”, to support legalization of marijuana. According to Mill the only power that can be exercised on an individual is when he harms others. Therefore, Mill would argue for the legalization of marijuana, because if one smokes marijuana and does not harm others, then it is good for the society. However, a person should only be restrained to smoke marijuana if it leads him or her to harm others. Furthermore, Mill states that the authority should not restrain or punish an individual who harms himself or herself. If the police stop a person from smoking marijuana, then they are interfering with the individual liberties inherent in the Constitution, which states, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.” The Constitution confirms Mill’s argument about giving people the freedom to smoke marijuana as long as they do not interfere with the life of others.

It would not matter if some users went on to smoke cocaine or some other drugs because they are at liberty to pursue happiness as long as their pursuit of happiness does not affect anyone. One might argue that cocaine has side effects that can harm the user, for instance, cocaine causes the development of cardiovascular diseases, nausea and loss of appetite, thus interfering with an individual’s quality of life. Using Mill’s argument on liberty, the critics should not that an individual is at liberty to harm his or her body as long as there is no interference of another person’s life. However, an individual can only be stopped from using cocaine and other drugs if he or she interferes with the life of his or family members and neighbors. For instance, a person may be carried away with cocaine such that he forgets to care for his family. In such a case, the use of drugs is interfering with the quality of life of other people and the user should be stopped. However, if the user remains responsible and uses cocaine or other drugs in pursuit of happiness, then it would not matter. Therefore, from Mill’s argument, he would support the legalization of marijuana.

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