While in the United States marijuana has been prohibited since the early twentieth century, the shifting nature of public perception in recent years has resulted in an increased willingness to examine legalization. In this contemporary cultural climate a number of states have lowered the penalties for individuals caught with marijuana, in a sense decriminalizing the controlled substance. Another trend, particularly in regions such as California and Colorado, is a movement towards medical marijuana; this is the legalization of marijuana for individuals with an approved medical condition. Still, a number of states, such as Florida, retain stringent marijuana laws and regularly incarcerate individuals for the offense.
Indeed, while there are a multitude of arguments for the legalization of marijuana, some of the most pervasive have underlining utilitarian concerns. Within this context of understanding, one such argument is the notion that the cost of legally attempting to prevent individuals from using marijuana is so large that there would be greater benefit to society to simply allow individuals to use marijuana. It’s argued that, “Law enforcement has more important responsibilities than arresting 750,000 individuals a year for marijuana possession, especially given the additional justice costs of disposing of each of these cases”. One notes the utilitarian concern within a number of aspects in this argument. In these regards, continuing to implement taxpayer money to persecute marijuana users goes against utilitarian principles on the grounds that a greater amount of people suffer from criminalizing marijuana than would be harmed by its legalization. Another prominent utilitarian concern within the marijuana legalization debate is the potential of reaping taxpayer rewards for individual’s purchasing marijuana. In examining this argument one notes that there are two sides to the notion. While taxing marijuana would have a significant financial benefit for the United States in terms of immediate revenue, it’s possible that the pervasive use of marijuana could potentially reduce productivity throughout the nation and in the long-term result in a decline in American tax revenue. When considering this debate, it’s noted that, “If you could collect on every cigarette and ignore the transportation, marketing, and advertising costs, this comes to over $2 billion” (Moffat, 2011). In these regards, it’s noted that statistical research demonstrates there is a significant increase in tax revenue that would be gained from instituting this marijuana tax. Other concern within this realm of understanding is the significant profit that is being gathered by underground drug dealers. In addition to directing valuable money into this aspect of the economy, the high financial gain from engaging in the drug trade results as a gateway for individuals that might otherwise not become involved in the marijuana industry (Booth 2005). This gateway results in increased crime levels and other areas of illicit use. Taking into consideration the collection of consequences of legalization against those of criminalization, it is argued that in terms of utilitarian ethical concerns society would gain the greatest benefit from legalizing marijuana. While there are substantial ethical arguments that support the legalization of