The Criminalization of Recreational Marijuana Use in Canada: A Scientific, Social, Legal and Philosophical Analysis Based On the Work of Douglas Husak

Title: The Criminalization of Recreational Marijuana Use in Canada: A Scientific, Social, Legal and Philosophical Analysis Based On the Work of Douglas Husak
Authors: Williams, Glenn
Date: 2010
Abstract: The recreational use and mere possession of marijuana is considered a criminal offense under current Canadian legislation. This thesis argues that the criminalization of recreational marijuana use in Canada is not justified because the "criminal" punishment exceeds the seriousness of the crime. Furthermore, excessive criminalization results in an unwarranted infringement of the autonomy and moral right of citizens to recreational marijuana use. Chapter 1 identifies the contemporary science and medical research surrounding cannabis, especially the psychological and physiological risks of marijuana use and the medicinal benefits of marijuana use. Chapter 2 presents a socio-cultural perspective on marijuana use. We look at how Canadians' views have changed toward marijuana, as well as the social ramifications of two major Governmental reports: The Le Dain Commission Final Report of 1974 and the Senate Special Committee Report on Cannabis of 2002. The socio-cultural context of marijuana in Canadian society is illustrated and compared with other licit and illicit drugs and the stigma associated with a criminal marijuana conviction is illuminated. We move from the social to legal arena in Chapter 3 and outline Canadian laws regulating marijuana offenses from past to present. We show how politics has affected marijuana policy in Canada and how increased penalties to marijuana offenders are irrational and out of step with socio-cultural attitudes toward cannabis use. Chapter 4 marks the beginning of our philosophical, non-consequentialist moral rights argument. The philosophical framework of Douglas Husak is appropriated in order to introduce ethical arguments that challenge the criminalization of marijuana based on the harm it poses to the individual user and to others in society. The principle of autonomy is analyzed as a basis for challenging state interference on paternalistic grounds in the state's efforts to prevent harm to users. The "harm principle" is also put to the test in identifying the plausible harms caused to others. Chapter 5 differentiates our philosophical position from that of Douglas Husak by providing arguments for why marijuana ought to be separated from other "harder" drugs under a moral rights approach. We recommend a more liberalized marijuana policy (although not as liberal as Husaks!) in light of a decriminalized system in Canada, and suggest why such a system could continue to uphold the moral rights of citizens to recreational marijuana use. In order for the moral rights of marijuana users to be upheld, marijuana use and possession ought to be decriminalized, and penalized by no more than a $100 civil fine, accompanied by community service, rehabilitation and job training programs at the discretion of the judiciary. Under a policy of decriminalization, the risk of receiving a conditional discharge, criminal record, and imprisonment is diminished and the vast number of recreational marijuana users will not be hindered from further contributing to Canadian society.
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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