Legal use of Marijuana in the US

The use of marijuana is prohibited across many parts of the world. Although illegal due to the destructive effects to its consumers, it is not possible to completely ignore the constructive nature of marijuana as a medicinal drug. In light of the above, a couple of nations across the globe have legalized medical marijuana. In the entire United States, over 20 states have legalized medical marijuana. However, other than the medical benefits of marijuana, the drugs recreational use has grown with time, illegally, prompting the urge to legalize so as the government may economically benefit from it. Legalizing recreational marijuana started with the states of Colorado and Washington, with other states taking time but interested altogether. The legal use of marijuana, although lucrative for business purposes, brings forth ethical issues. Although legal at the state level, marijuana use is still illegal according to the federal government, thus the rationale behind the various ethical issues surrounding business models established to benefit from the legalization of marijuana in Washington, as well as in other states.

Business Case Scenario

With the legalization of marijuana various stockholders across different industries and sectors are attracted to see what kind of investment the legalization brings about. However, the investors seeking to take advantage of the legalized marijuana face substantially huge ethical and risks especially since the legality of marijuana has not been there for a long time. In light of the above, the business of offering legal advice and consultancy in Washington features as a good business to illustrate the above.

The market for legal consultancy and advice is quite lucrative, especially in new fields. In Washington, the lawyers have a lot to benefit from with respect to offering advice and consultancy services with respect to matters relating to legalization of marijuana in the above state. Ideally, when a state passes such a law, not very many people are conversant with the underlying provisions and specific requirements necessary for observation. Additionally, many enthusiasts in the state of Washington would like to know the best procedures to follow in case they would like to venture in the marijuana related business now that it is legal. Lawyers, due to their active role in the drive for legal development from state to state, are always very conversant with all the underlying provisions that govern every old, current and new law.

The residents of Washington would not like to end up on the wrong side of the law due to a marijuana related case. Therefore, they are bound to make as much consultation as possible with matters relating to either general consumption, trade, as well as the cultivation of the legalized recreational marijuana. In light of the above, a lucrative business opportunity surfaces for the lawyers in Washington. However, despite the facts from the illustration above on how lucrative the above business opportunity is, it is subject to immense ethical and legal considerations. The legalization of marijuana in Washington falls under the state individual statutes and constitution of the Washington alone. According to the statutes and the constitution of the federal government in charge of the entire United States, marijuana is still illegal (McClatchy, 2009). It is in light of the above that the legal advice and consultancy business faces ethical dilemma.

In the business world, ethical dilemma refers to a situation where an individual finds himself or herself torn between making two decisions. For the practicing lawyers in Washington, the ethical dilemma they face is making decisions whether to apply the state law alone or to consider the federal law as well. By applying the state law and ignoring the federal law, they will be able to reap the benefits of the lucrative legal advice and consultancy to marijuana enthusiasts. On the other hand, applying the federal law provisions means that by advising the marijuana enthusiasts, the lawyers in Washington will be helping perpetrate crime – thus they will not be in a position to venture in the lucrative business. An ethical dilemma is not a very simple situation to solve. In the end, one has to choose one decision only. At most times, it is upon the intuition of individuals to observe, reflect and decide on the best way to go. The bottom line is that the state of Washington has a recognized capacity to legalize marijuana in its environs, while the federal government has its capacity to decide what is good for all the states in the United States.

Ethical Concerns Analysis

Ethical principles and theories form the basis upon which strong moral foundations find establishment (Seaquist, 2012). Ideally, they surface as the viewpoints upon which individuals manage to make constructive decisions. With respect to ethics in business as well as in other sectors, different viewpoints result from various theories that establish ethical behavior. Though different, every ethical theory purposes to put emphasis on specific aspects such as outcome prediction as well as duty follow-up for the purpose of making not only strategic but also ethically correct decisions. As illustrated in the above business scenario, the lawyers in the state of Washington have an ethical dilemma to solve. Depending on different points of view by various parties present in the above scenario, every lawyer will finally settle for one of the present options. The choice of either of the sides for the lawyers will be as a result of applying a given ethical theory. However, it is important to note that the only way an ethical theory becomes useful is only in the case that it is directed towards a certain set of objectives or goals that are common to many. Therefore, the final decision by the lawyers in Washington to decide whether to take advantage of the business opportunity brought forth by the legalization of marijuana must find basis on the usefulness of the decision. By embracing or overlooking the business opportunity, the lawyers must be acting in accordance to certain business ethics principles.

Similar to various other sectors, business ethics integrate a couple of key ethical principles (Holland, 2013). The major principles applicable by the lawyers in Washington include the following: respect for autonomy, least harm, beneficence, and justice. Respect for autonomy is a principle that states the importance of an ethical theory to integrate provisions that gives people the room to make the decisions they apply for their day-to-day lives. In the case of the business scenario in Washington after the legalization of marijuana, respect for autonomy means that the lawyers have the last say with respect to deciding either for or against offering legal consultancy and advice on matters relating to marijuana. The ethical principle of justice states that every ethical theory must include actions that are most fair to the involved parties. The above for instance means that the lawyers in Washington must be in a position to provide a logical basis upon which their decisions find their basis. Beneficence as a principle provides the necessary guidelines that ultimately enable one to do what is good. The rationale for the above in the business case above is that the lawyers should make the decisions that provide the greatest amount of good since the more the goodness, the more the benefit by the people. Finally, there is the principle of least harm, which is similar to beneficence only that it deals with situations characterized by non beneficial choices. Ideally, the provisions of the above principle state that a person should apply an ethical theory that advocates for the least possible harm and affects the fewest people possible.

In the case of the business opportunity in Washington resulting from the legalization of marijuana, there are two main ethical theories the lawyers can apply to decide on the best way forward – the deontological theory and the Utilitarianism theory. According to the deontological theory, people should listen and depend on their set duties and obligations on matters relating to overcoming ethical dilemma. Ideally, the above means that an individual should consider the basic obligations bestowed upon him or her since it is in upholding one’s moral responsibilities that one stands out as ethically correct (Seaquist, 2012). Following the provisions of the deontological theory produces a consistent decision making mannerism since the decisions find their basis upon the individual’s duties. In the case of the business scenario above, the lawyers were first trained and ordained under the legal provisions of the federal government. Therefore, for matters happening under the state government that are heavily contrasting with the federal government, the lawyers should first observe the duty they owe to the federal government. Notably, despite the fact that the state of Washington, alongside few other states, has legalized recreational marijuana, the federal government still categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug according to the Controlled Substances Act (Chiang, 2015). Applying the deontological theory in such a case means that the lawyers ought not to embrace the lucrative legal advice and consultancy service business opportunity since in doing so; they would be failing in performing their duty towards the federal government.

On the other hand, there is the utilitarian theory which essentially finds its basis on the ability of an individual to observe actions and predict the consequences. According to the provisions of the utilitarian theory, the choice that provides the greatest benefit to most people stands out as the choice that is most ethically correct (Seaquist, 2012). Ideally, the utilitarian theory gives room for the comparison between similarly predicted solutions, using a systematic decision making criteria to arrive at the most beneficial option to the majority. In light of the above, the utilitarian theory helps in establishing a rational and logical argument for different decisions allowing the individuals to apply such rationale and logic towards benefiting the majority. In the case of the ethical dilemma presented by the business opportunity in the state of Washington for advice services by lawyers following the legalization of marijuana in Washington, the utilitarian theory makes decision making very easy. In the above case, the lawyers in Washington can freely give consultancy and advice services to the all willing parties – consumers, retailers, and general investors.

Of the above two ethical theories, the most outstanding one for the lawyers in Washington to apply in solving the ethical dilemma deadlock is the utilitarian theory. The rationale for the above finds its basis upon the fact that the majority is always right (Defour, 2010). Ideally, it is upon the pressure and campaigns by the majority residents of the Washington state that the state government decided to legalize recreational marijuana within its boundaries. Since the state government has already made it legal, only rational and logical thinking would to provide the necessary complementary services that go along with the implementation of such a law – offering consultancy and advice services for all interested parties and stakeholders. In addition to the invaluable benefits those seeking for consultancy and advice will receive, the lawyers and the governments (both state and federal) will benefit hugely in terms of fees and taxes, respectively (Semenza, 2009). As a result, the utilitarian theory stands out as the most suitable theory to apply in the above case in Washington.

Relevant Areas of Law Featured in the Business Case

Other than the ethical aspect of the above case, it has a wide legal foundation as well. Similar to other nations, the United States law, both at the federal and the state level, features many sources such as statutory, judicial, administrative, as well as constitutional (Seaquist, 2012). Judicial or case law is made by the judges as they make rulings in courts of law. Statutory law is made while bills are signed by the governor or the president for the state or for congress, respectively. The constitutional law is stipulated in the constitutions governing each state as well as the general one for the entire country. Constitutional law is similar to statutory law and is amended by the congress and the senate (Seaquist, 2012). Finally, administrative law is made by federal or state agencies appointed by government officials. The members of the agencies making the agencies are quasi-independent and report to the public and congress. Most of the areas featured in the case under discussion are mostly under the statutory or the constitutional law.

One important area of law featured in the above case is the criminal law. Ideally, criminal law deals with the punishment of all prohibited behaviors that are seen to be harmful to the society (Seaquist, 2012). Criminal law is the primary driver through which every federal government stipulates the standard behavioral guidelines for use by its citizens. The nature of criminal law is highly punitive for all actions considered rather destructive to the community thus it helps to reflect the ethical values incorporated in different societies. As stipulated above, the business case scenario resulting from the legalization of marijuana in the state of Washington brings forth an ethical dilemma. However, the dilemma is not only ethical but also legal. The major reason for the dilemma comes from the fact that the federal government prohibits the consumption of recreational marijuana. The federal government deems marijuana consumption as harmful to the society and thus punishable by jail sentences, fine payment, and in some cases both. Ideally, marijuana consumption is a crime according to the federal government. It as a result of the above that criminal law features in the above discussion.

The other area of law featured in the above discussion is negligence. Negligence is a kind of unintentional tort which is very costly to business on very many levels (Seaquist, 2012). Negligence as a part of constitutional law features four key elements. To start with, there must be the duty of care. Then the duty of care must be breached. The breach of the duty of care must directly cause damage. And finally, one must suffer physical or mental injury. Once the state of Washington legalized marijuana, it gave people of Washington and the travelers who visit the above state the right to know more about the regulations of marijuana. In light of the above, there is the duty of care. As a lawyer in the above state, one should not fail to give advice on matters concerning marijuana since according to the statutory provision of the law in Washington; recreational marijuana is legal and thus warrants advice like any other legal issues in the country. As a result, failing to provide such advice is a breach of the duty of care. Such a breach may lead to a person getting into legal tussles with the state for the use of marijuana in a way not stipulated or expected by the state. The above makes could lead to distress (mental injury) to a persons who knows that it is legal to do anything with marijuana in the state of Washington. Such a case demonstrates a clear instance of negligence in the case of the lawyers or the judicial system in the state of Washington.

The other featured area of law is the administrative law. Administrative law applies in the definition of the powers held by various government agencies. According to the administrative Procedure Act, the federal government creates an agency and entrust it with the power to oversee some various legal issues across the country (Seaquist, 2012). The established federal agencies have extensive powers that reach within every area they can manage. Federal agencies are under the federal government so they can reach out to all the states. A federal agency that reinforces drug issues will have conflicting issues with the authorities in the state of Washington due to the fact that the provisions of the federal agency are very different with the provisions of the statutory law and state agencies in the above state. The above three areas are some of the major law areas featured in the case above.


Broady, G. (2015). BigLaw Sees Green With Legal Pot Despite High Ethical Risks – Law360. Retrieved 16 June 2015, from

Chiang, W. (2015). Obstacles to Legalizing Marijuana: Resolving The Federal-State Conflict. Practical Tax Strategies, 94(5), 219-223.

Defour, M. (2010). Should Dane County hold an advisory referendum on legalizing medical marijuana?. Tribune Business News.

Holland, D. (2013). The Worldwide Academic Field of Business Ethics: Scholars’ Perceptions of the Most Important Issues. Journal Of Business Ethics, 117(4), 777-788.

McClatchy, B. (2009). Local officials: What’s governor smoking: Suggestion to study legalizing marijuana criticized. Tribune Business News Washington.

Seaquist, G. (2012). Business Law for Managers. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Semenza, G. (2009). Pro: U.S. can make, save money by legalizing, taxing marijuana. Tribune Business News.



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