Sample Sociology Essay on State vs. Federal Marijuana Legalization


Currently, there is a major argument in the US concerning State vs. Federal marijuana legalization. By the end of 2012, eighteen states had legalized medical marijuana and other two states had legalized recreational marijuana under their State laws. Nevertheless, Federal laws in the US through Controlled Substances Act (CSA) prohibit possession, production, sale, or distribution of marijuana even though this is in compliance with state laws (Schwartz, 2013). Due to the inconsistency between the Federal and State laws on marijuana legalization, the court has affirmed that Federal laws enforced by the CSA will take control over the State laws. The argument of the court is based on the supremacy clause of the US constitution which states that Federal laws remain binding to the states. Therefore, despite State laws legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, any person found in position, sale, production or distribution of marijuana will be tried. To reduce the existing discrepancies on marijuana discrimination every State should be allowed to implement their own rules on marijuana. Additionally, federal government should carry out their own investigation to determine where medical marijuana is fit for human health and if it is suitable it should be legalized. This will ensure that the next generation of Americans view as just, today’s response to homelessness. The essay will look at three scenarios by analyzing the retributive, commutative and distributive justice for the situation.

The first scenario involves a marijuana smoker living in a State that has legalized production processing, distributing and selling of marijuana thorough state-regulated dispensaries for medical use.

In this scenario, marijuana is legalized for medical use only. Therefore, if the pot smoker uses marijuana for other purposes other than for medical use such as for recreation it will be an offence to the State. Additional the Federal laws in the US prohibit use of marijuana either for medical or recreation purpose. Under retributive justice, the pot smoker has committed will be committing an offence against the state and Federal government. Therefore, he can face criminal charges for use of marijuana for recreation purposes. Under commutative justice, the pot smoker should be allowed to smoke since procession and use of medical marijuana is legal in the state. Under distributive justice, it is also morally acceptable to smoke in the State of the pot smoker. On the other hand, if the pot smoker buys medical marijuana from the designated dispensaries he should not be charged under the State laws (Schwartz, 2013).

The second scenario involves a parent that lives in the same state that has legalized marijuana, and he is concerned that his child will be exposed risk of pot addiction that is readily available. In this scenario, it is illegal to sell marijuana to a minor both under State laws and Federal laws. Therefore, under retributive justice, the person selling marijuana to the twelve years old person should be charged in a court of law. And commutative justice, the parent should take care of his child by educating him on adverse side effect of smoking marijuana. Under distributive justice, marijuana use in this State is legal. The society has morally accepted use of marijuana, and therefore the child will not be at risk

The third scenario involves a HIV patient in the same State who has been advised by the doctor to smoke small amount of marijuana to relieve his pain. In this scenario, the state has legalized the use of medical marijuana, and therefore the doctor has prescribed the HIV patient to take a small amount of marijuana to relieve pain. This is a retributive justice since marijuana is legal in this State. Under commutative justice, the patient will be committing an offence that can be charged under federal laws since use of marijuana is illegal under Federal laws (Chemerinsky et al.2014).

The analysis of the three scenarios has shown that marijuana use in the US can be viewed in two perspective that include legal perspective and ethical perspective. Under legal perspective, there are discrepancies between State laws and Federal laws on marijuana. Under ethical perspective, the scenarios analyzed have shown that the society in most states has accepted marijuana use. They believe that the marijuana can be used for both medical and recreation purposes. Therefore, a doctor can prescribe a small dose of marijuana to a patient. Moreover, several beverage and food companies are putting small dose of marijuana to their product, and this is considered ethically correct (Schwartz, 2013).


The discrepancy between State and Federal Marijuana Legalization has raised a lot of concern in most states in the US. Most states have legalized used of marijuana for medical or recreation. However, the federal government under CSA is against the use of marijuana. Efforts have been made to amend the federal constitution to allow each state to set laws that govern marijuana use. Federal government is conducting research and experiments to test the suitability of marijuana in medical and recreation usage. The effort will ensure that the next generation of US will face justice on marijuana usage regardless of their State (Duke, 2013).





Chemerinsky, E., Forman, J., Hopper, A., & Kamin, S. (2014). Cooperative Federalism and Marijuana Regulation. UCLA Law Review, 2015.

Duke, S. B. (2013). The Future of Marijuana in the United States.Oregon Law Review, 91.

Schwartz, D. S. (2013). High Federalism: Marijuana Legalization and the Limits of Federal Power to Regulate States.Cardozo L. Rev., 35, 567-897.