Medical Marijuana, Drunk Driving, and Dirty Hands

Recently, published an article that reports an interesting new finding: states that legalize medical marijuana see fewer fatal car accidents.  The article presents the reasoning that people may be substituting marijuana smoking for drinking alcohol, and these states have seen significantly fewer fatalities and accidents caused by drunk driving.  While this claim may seem a little far-fetched at first glance, data from the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prove the theory greatly.  The rate of fatal crashes in which a driver had consumed any alcohol dropped 12% after medical marijuana was legalized, and states that legalized medical marijuana use saw fatal accidents drop by 9%.  Currently, 16 states have enacted laws that effectively made medical marijuana legal, and six states currently have pending legislation.  Could this recent finding displaying another positive effect of medical marijuana, one that would benefit society as a whole, push the debate closer to nationwide legalization?

[United States President Barack Obama with his views on medical marijuana]

The topic of medical marijuana legalization has been one of great controversy and debate in recent American history.  As many states have pushed to pass legislation that would make medical marijuana legal, both supporters and those opposed have vocally expressed their opinions and  a national debate has ensued.  Issues revolving around morals, ethics, safety, and health have set the floor for the arguments surrounding medical usage of the drug, and many people hold strong, stern opinions.  With increasingly more positive evidence supporting the legalization of medical marijuana being released, such as the above data, it will be interesting to see if support gradually sways in favor of the drug.

Cannabis, a flowering plant, has caused much controversy in the United States

The government plays a large role in the daily life of Americans.  We can all agree on that.  In relation to this debate, government officials have large influence in creating, signing, and voting in favor of legislation that supports the legalization of medical marijuana.  While some politicians have diligently worked to advance the nation towards such legislation, many politicians have taken an opposite route, opting to lobby their peers to vote against and oppose the legalization of medical marijuana.  Many would argue that passing such legislation would greatly benefit the general public: individuals with serious diseases would have a new option to greatly relieve chronic pain, more money would enter the economy instead of the black market, and finally, as stated earlier, even fatalities caused by drunk driving could decrease.  Although, it is obvious that it is not that easy.  Passing such legislation would be considered by many to be immoral, unethical, and flat out wrong.

By passing legislation that would effectively legalize medical marijuana, many people would consider the government to be committing an act of dirty hands.  From the views of those opposed, these political officials would be legalizing a drug to benefit elect citizens of the general public, but paradoxically, they would be acting immorally and unethically in the eyes of many of the people they represent.  Essentially, the government would be committing a unique case of dirty hands.  But is this okay?  Clearly this type of dirty hands differs from a more obvious form of dirty hands (such as the assassination of a tyrant leader), but it still results in asking a similar question: is it morally acceptable for government officials to pass legislation or take actions that could be viewed as morally wrong and unethical if it benefits some population of the general public?

Overall, it is clear that the debate over the legalization of medical marijuana is a sticky one.  Do you think medical marijuana should be legalized?  Moreover, do you think actions like this taken by the government that can be considered as dirty hands are legitimate?

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8 Comments on “Medical Marijuana, Drunk Driving, and Dirty Hands”

  1. ajnovo Says:

    I think another aspect of legalizing marijuana is the impact it would have in South American countries where marijuana is grown and smuggled into the country. I feel that we spend way too much time and money trying to confiscate and control the amount of illegal contraband entering our country which not only takes resources away from the United States, but also creates drug cartels and other dangers in South American countries. Nixon’s War on Drugs has not been particularly successful, and I feel that a lot of the problems that exist in South America are due to the United States’ influence and are actions towards drug control.

    I do not think this is a case of dirty hands because by legalizing marijuana, it would be helping our enconomy, South American countries, and millions of patients who would benefit from the use of marijuana. Also, I would like to mention that not one person has died from an overdose of marijuana, yet thousands die due to alcohol poisoning and drunk driving yet alcohol is legal. I hope that once more people of our generation are allowed to vote, marijuana will eventually become legal.

  2. jgurwitch Says:

    This is one of those tough situations where you have to decide which substance you want people using. On one hand the claim that there are less drunk driving accidents is a very valuable cause to legalizing marijuana, but on the other hand marijuana still impairs people’s vision and is not something the country wants legalized. This debate has been going on for quite some time because having it be illegal limits the amount it is being used. Sure a lot of people still smoke but at the same time it is more discrete and hidden so it does not affect the general public.

    I personally think that legalizing it would be better just because if these claims of less drunk driving is accurate, then it makes driving late at night that much safer. There are a lot of people who drink and drive and make terrible decisions but limiting that would be very worthwhile. At the same time I think this would be considered a dirty hands move because it is sacrificing something for the good of another. A lot of people would definitely be opposed to the legalization of marijuana, especially because it distorts vision, creates problems with memory and coordination, and many other effects. These effects might not be seen immediately but overtime they start to gather up. I am not an advocate for marijuana or it being legalized but when it comes to the safety and well being of others I would rather see people smoking and not drunk driving in order to have a safer environment.

  3. emmaknev Says:

    I never thought about the legalization of medical marijuana as a dirty hands problem, but I see what you mean. I have to say that I support the legalization of medical marijuana, not only because it is a logical step in the development of medical treatment, but also because it does help a wide variety of diseases and people. I think that any type of social change that the government has made throughout history has been controversial because there have always been multiple viewpoints. These actions, which classify as dirty hands, are legitimate if they prove to be effective in improving society. With marijuana being so widespread throughout the nation already, I see legalizing it medically as a natural step in the right direction. Whether they legalize it or not, it isn’t going anywhere, so the government might as well make some money off of it.

  4. alexwillard Says:

    I honestly don’t believe that this is an issue of dirty hands. I am very neutral on the topic of marijuana legalization and do not really care either way it goes but in your article you only seemed to list positive facts so how can it be bad? In order for something to be dirty hands you must do something bad to get to the greater goal of doing something good. It seems to me that the government isn’t really doing anything bad to get to the desired outcome of something good such as lower drunk driving rates. I also like the point that ajnovo made about the illegal drug trades in Mexico and the accompanying war, even if this was an issue of dirty hands I would completely be fine with havong people toke it up if it helped end a war.

  5. andgoldberg Says:

    I think that one of the main issues holding back the government from legalizing marijuana is the lack of ability authorities have when trying to prove someone is under the influence of weed. Highway patrol and local policemen can instantaneously test someone for alcohol with a breathalzyer. This would result in an accurate decimal showing authorities how impaired the driver is.

    With marijuana, authorities have yet to come up with a proper way to test whether the driver is impaired or not. Police obviously have certain physical tests and tongue swabs which test for THC, but both of these are fairly inconclusive. Until authorities determine what the supposed level of THC in one’s body would impair driving, marijuana will not be legalized.

  6. Karsten Smolinski Says:

    The U.S. government may not have to go as far as complete legalization. In the European country of Portugal, instead of legalization the government completely decriminalized the possession of not only marijuana but also cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Jail time was replaced with the offer of free therapy and rehabilitation. As a result, drug use in the country has decreased drastically and is much lower than drug use in the United States. We even have the example of Prohibition to show us that making a substance illegal does not work. If people truly think that marijuana is a detrimental substance then probably the best way to deal with it would be to decriminalize or legalize it. Therefore, good or bad it definitely makes the most sense to at least decriminalize it. However, because there are many people that would disagree with me, it is a problem of dirty hands.

    Also, marijuana use does not impair vision.

  7. Brian Hall Says:

    Marijuana legalization is an interesting debate because there are so many aspects that lurk under the surface that many people don’t realize. Many people don’t want to see it legalized because they are threatened by it (obviously they’ve never tried it before), and feel that drugs will lead to the corruption of society, especially with youth. On the other hand you have the free-wheeling liberals who don’t want the government to have a say in what they do with their freetime and rightfully acknowledge that weed has virtually no negative health effects (aside from lung damage if not smoked in moderation).

    What is interesting is that those currently growing and selling marijuana do not want it legalized. They have a sweet setup going right now; no taxes, no FDA restrictions, and no competition from large corporations (except the cartels are corporations, just illegal and more overtly violent). If we legalize marijuana, we may cut down on the violence and wasted money spent on the war on drugs, but there will be unintended consequences.

    Consider that marijuana is grown in large quantitities in South America, much like cattle used in the beef trade. If marijuana is legalized in the U.S., the demand for the drug will increase dramatically, meaning there will be more incentive to cut down rainforest in the areas where it could be best grown. The meat industry has a similar method of dealing with space restrictions: we use other countries’ land and labor to produce our highly polluting consumer goods (though admittedly the cows are a double threat considering they produce absurd amounts of methane too). This is far from a perfect argument for keeping marijuana illegal, as there are other somewhat difficult methods around the environmental problems of growing marijuana (hydroponic as an alternative etc.).

    Lastly, there is the 500 gorilla in the room nobody on the legalize side wants to mention; people who smoke marijuana tend to be less productive than those who don’t. I took a class last semester about Hippies and subcultural movements in the U.S. wherein it was mentioned that scientific studies were conducted on those who used LSD and marijuana in the ’60s versus control indiiduals and it was discovered that the only substantial difference in the two groups of people was work ethic and life philosophy. In other words, if you can sit on a couch all day and get high, why strive for a successful career? The stability of society, especially industrialized capitalist society, depends heavily on sober participants. Of course this leads to more questions and differences of opinion, but it is important to understand that this is precisely why most governments are extremely hesitant to legalize drugs. If it weren’t for the problems encountered with prohibition, they would try to do the same thing with alcohol as well.

    Personally I’m on the side of legalization, as I think the potential benefits outweigh the negatives. Personal freedom and the pain relief that come from soft drugs are extremely valuable to many people, or else would be if they knew what they were missing.

  8. golortegui Says:

    To answer your question, I believe that medical marijuana should be legalized because of the aforementioned benefits such as glaucoma and cancer treatment etc. however I do not believe this is an issue of dirty hands. The reason why is because in my opinion, the issue with marijuana use is not an issue of morality. I think that the most legitimate argument against marijuana use for medical purposes or otherwise isn’t that it’s “bad” or immoral, but that it isn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Sure, legalization opens up the door for the potential immoral acts such as fraud (ex. lying about a medical condition in order to receive medical marijuana) but the act of passing the law itself doesn’t fit the profile of an immoral act for the benefit of the greater good.

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