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On August 3rd, almost 100 people were arrested because they were found to be commercially growing marijuana in California's Sierra Nevada range. But this is coming after the California Supreme Court had struck down the limits that the State had placed on the amount of medical marijuana a patient can possess in 2001, saying that the imposed restrictions were unconstitutional. What this decision meant was that patients and care givers having a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana can comfortably possess as much as what is reasonably needed for the patient's current medical needs. This did not limit the amount of marijuana that one could cultivate or possess provided it is of personal medical purposes. This now makes it hard for the law enforcers to effectively discharge their mandate; they are torn between dealing with those possessing marijuana legally and those having illegally. This essay is going to look at the dilemma created by such a situation in the State of California that legalizes the use of medical marijuana.
The marijuana dilemma
This is a debate that is affecting most sectors of the State of California, for instance employees who use medical marijuana are being fired by their employers after a positive drug test on the job is confirmed. This posses many questions that need answers, for example what should a job seeker do if he or she is being offered a killer job and the only thing that is preventing him from getting the job is the employer's insistence that he should be drug tested before commencing work. This person may not be engaged in illegal drugs, but he smokes medical marijuana regularly in line with a prescription made by a licensed medical doctor. Should the individual lose that job just because he tested positive for using marijuana? This presents a very troubling dilemma; especially when, under California law, an employer is required not to unlawfully discriminate against existing employees or prospective employees on grounds of their medical conditions. Another scenario that has posed a dilemma in enforcing the law is the incident where the Garden Grove Police arrested and charged a motorist for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana in his car. They seized his medicine because the compassionate use act does not provide a defense to this. What the police overlooked is that the vehicle code section with which the motorist was charged has an exception to the offense of possessing marijuana in a vehicle where the possession is authorized by the law. The law has provided that qualified uses like the one detained, may possess eight ounces of dried marijuana. Therefore the motorist did not violate any law. But the forfeiture provision of state law that requires the forfeiture of property not lawfully possessed also incorporates federal law, which therefore renders marijuana illegal for all purposes. This, therefore posses a dilemma (Clark, 2000).
The practice where most employers within the State of California carry out employee drug testing, credi checks and reference screening should be stopped because this is unfair and unlawful. Employees who are faced with such a situation need to be informed of their options rather than just face sucking right away. The California State has therefore come up with laws that require that patients who use marijuana should have a current recommendation for the use of medical marijuana written by a licensed medical doctor. The individual should have been examined by a doctor who should have concluded with some medical surety that the individual will benefit from using medical marijuana. To reduce the wanton and biased arrests being made the law enforcers, the State of California has come up with laws that provide for voluntary registration of qualified patients who can use medical marijuana together with their primary caregivers through a marijuana identification card system in the whole State. This way the law enforcers are allowed to identify and also verify that the card holders are legally able to cultivate, possess and transport specified amounts of marijuana without the fear of being arrested. It also calls on the marijuana dispensaries and clinics to demand for medical marijuana cards from individuals before allowing them to purchase medical marijuana. Law enforcers and any concerned party should be made to understand, when subjecting an individual to a drug test, that there is no easy way to know exactly how long marijuana can remain in the blood system of a person, since this is determined by an individual's method of marijuana use, resistance, quantity of use, body weight, and also the individual's overall metabolism rate. All this play a role in determining the rate of marijuana elimination from the body system. Despite the legalization, the fair employment and housing act gives the employer the power to terminate an employee who fails the test. What this means is that, in the State of California, it is an employers right to insist on drug testing as a precondition not just to employment but continued employment. This is ethically wrong because it denies people their right to be employed because of something they have no choice on. It forces people to choose between their medical condition and the job, a decision that is difficult to make (Clark, 2000).
But this is not just an issue of ethics; the State of California has also to deal with the issue of the Mexican cartels. These are illegal drug operators that should be driven out of business if the legalization efforts have to be effective. If done poorly, the legalization will only be given a good breeding ground for their dirty business. This is among the issues that make the law enforcers to find it hard to discharge their duties without the fear of unfairly encroaching on the rights of innocent civilians. There is also the fear that these cartels can use the money from the booming marijuana business to support political candidates who they know will support their course. It is in line with this that the regulation of marijuana use is justified. It will only be bad if the police do it with bias oon racial lines. The raids that law enforcers have been making on marijuana clinics and dispensaries in the name of dealing with marijuana use should be stopped. Another hurdle is that although the State of California has legalized the use of medical marijuana, it is still against the federal law for some one to smoke it. The federal law still requires it to prosecute all those found using it, be it patients or non patients. This has brought confusion among law enforcers in discharging their duties. That is why they will still be justified under the federal law to detain anyone in possession of marijuana (Marshal, 2010).
This will remain a dilemma whether marijuana is legalized or not because both proponents and opponents to the legalization have good arguments for their cases, the fact remains that inconsistencies and contradictions are present in both the presentations. The proponents of legalization have often found the question of where to draw the legal line to be problematic. To what degree must a drug be harmful in order to be illegal? In an environment like the one in the State of California, where pressure is mounting against the legality of other drugs such as tobacco, marijuana legalization has a contradictory aspect. The funds used on incarcerating drug offenders should in the future be used on public programs to address the ills brought about by those drugs that have been legalized including marijuana, although it is known whether their use will increase when legalized or not. Those opposed to legalization do not address the issue of the other legalized drugs. They have to make serious and logical justifications as to why less harmful drugs like marijuana are prohibited against the harmful ones like tobacco. What the proponents and opponents together with the law enforcers should understand is that this issue is affecting the whole society. They should therefore be careful when coming up with issues dealing with it so that no one is harmed in the long run. Mechanisms should be put in place to address the ethical dilemma that the issue posses so that the users, the medical practitioners and the law enforcers are free to use and discharge their duties without the fear of being victimized or arrested for the same (Marshal, 2010).
As it has been outlined in this essay, those who have arrested by the law enforcers, detained or even imprisoned for using medical marijuana that had been prescribed by a certified medical practitioner, might not have been wrong because they did so legally. The law enforcers could therefore be seen to be wrong, the same applies to the employees sacked after by their employers after testing positive for using marijuana that they had been using as a medicine. But the law enforcers and the employers on the hand may have been also right in line with the federal laws that prohibit the use of marijuana by anyone. The law gives them that right to do whatever they did, and that precisely where the ethical dilemma comes in. That is why it is better for all parties to understand what is right and make decisions that will not harm anyone.