A recent journal publication by Belackova et al. (2016) titled; Qualitative research in Spanish cannabis social clubs‘‘The moment you enter the door, you are minimizing the risks, brings about an intense ethical dilemma concerning organizations or businesses that incorporate cannabis into their operations.
Cannabis social clubs (CSCs) in Spain are non- profit agencies that have the objective of linking regular adult cannabis users. A pivotal role of the club is to supply cannabis to the members while ensuring that they do not break any international regulation during the process. Through a qualitative analysis, Belackova et al. (2016) sampled 11 CSCs and examined the risks posed to the members who attended such clubs. The findings of the study disclosed that the participants described various risk minimizing attributes of the CSCs. Some of the low risk benefits they received include the accessibility of quality cannabis and approaches of control and the provision of different strains of the product. The contributors also stated that they were educated about psychoactive impacts of the drug, control over its use, ways of reducing criminal involvement and they also interacted and shared information on approaches of reducing stigma (Belackova et al. 2016). An ethical issue that arises from this journal publication is the subject of ethics when dealing with stakeholders. The question that emerges is; should companies or organizations conduct their operations using products that are outlawed or harmful to the consumers. This paper seeks to examine the subject using the lens of the Utilitarianism and Kant theory.
The Utilitarianism viewpoint is a consequence based theory (Gitman and McDaniel, 2007). It is grounded on the premise that it does not matter why you do something ( intent) nor does it matter exactly what you do ( action), what is important is the end result (Consequence). In reality, the name utilitarianism originates from the term ‘’utility’’ the idea that actions have utility, or they are useful due to the benefits or consequences they bring about. It involves seeking the best option for the majority (Gitman and McDaniel, 2007).
The objective of many organizations is to satisfy the needs of the customers who are the key external stakeholders of the business. In most cases, both not-for- profit organizations and those that work towards getting a profit strive to ascertain that the customers are contented. A question that arises is; does the intent and action undertaken by the organisation to meet this needs more significant or is it the result that matters most.
It can be stated that the Cannabis social clubs (CSCs) in Spain work with the Utilitarianism premise that actions do not matter, what matters most is consequence attained from the action. The article by Belackova et al (2016) discloses the fact that providing cannabis to customers has various benefits, as a result, the club owners are more focused on the consequences without considering the moral or health implications of the actions.
In the Utilitarianism ideology, the question of accountability does not arise. An individual can adopt wrong actions without being accountable for the effects of such engagements (Frederick, 2008). It is evident that despite the benefits associated with cannabis such as in medical treatment, the adverse consequences are not accounted for, as a result, those who sell or provide cannabis to users are not liable for the negative implications of the substance. For instance, studies such as those conducted by Newton et al. (2012) on the association between moral disengagement, psychological distress, resistive self-regulatory efficacy and alcohol and cannabis use among adolescents in Sydney, Australia, discloses that cannabis did bring about destructive effects to the users. Logistic regression analysis demonstrated that negative behavior such as moral disengagement, difficulty in controlling use and poor concentration was identified in 86% of the participants. In essence it can be stated that businesses or individuals that sell cannabis to the young people do not care about their welfare. Consequently, the behavior of such entities is a violation of stakeholder ethics. On the basis of Utilitarianism, accountability to the stakeholder is not essential.
Another premise of Unitarianism is hedonism which argues that pleasure is good, and pain is bad (Gitman and McDaniel, 2007). Nature has subjected humans under the governance of two powerful masters which are; pleasure and suffering. Consequently, man has to choose what to do. The Unitarianism creed, therefore, accepts the idea of the ‘’greatest happiness principle’’ whereby actions are right in the proportion that they promote happiness (Gitman and McDaniel, 2007). According to Kalant, (2016), although cannabis is considered illegal and harmful to human health, leading to many arrests due to the possession of the substance, damaging effects can arise due to the prohibition of cannabis. A case in point is in the context of medical marijuana. The use of medical marijuana relieves pain in people with chronic medical conditions. The Cannabis social clubs (CSCs) in Spain also bring about the positive benefit of pleasure to the club attends. In such contexts, it can be argued that the Unitarianism ideology that proposes getting rid of pain is admissible.
When using the utilitarianism perspective in determining whether the actions of the Cannabis social clubs (CSCs) in Spain are right or wrong, the most appropriate answer arises from the idea that as long as the stakeholders are happy, then the actions of the organization are moral. On the other hand, the stakeholder theory requires organizations to undertake operations that are legal and are considered beneficial to the stakeholder at all times (Phillips, 2003). Utilitarianism is, therefore, suitable for organizations that adopt to moral principles while also permitting flexibility that allows breaking the set regulations. As a result, on the basis of the Utilitarian view companies or organizations are permitted to conduct their operations using products that are outlawed or harmful to the consumers, as long as positive benefits exist.
Kant Theory of Ethics
The theory is based on the perspective that good will is a significant aspect in the selection of a choice of action (Glasgow, 2008). An act can, therefore, be considered as good if its motive is in line with the moral regulations. Kant propagates the analogy that it is imperative to behave according to moral standards no matter the circumstances (Glasgow, 2008). CAMH (2016) conducted a study to examine the policy implications of legalizing cannabis in the healthcare sector. The findings of the study revealed that despite the benefits of the substance in the medical area, its legal status would affect the users in a variety of ways. Foremost, it would increase the level of drug-related offences therefore increasing the amount of criminal activities. Besides, the use of the substance may lead to disorders essentially among adult users Lopez, et al. (2011) and short -term chronic medical conditions (Hall, and Degenhardt, 2009). Due to the negative implication of the substance, most countries have not legalized cannabis. Even in countries that have tried to enact the use of cannabis such as Uruguay, most cannabis users have continued to violate the set regulations.
Boidi, et al. (2016) reveals that in 2013, Uruguay become the first nation to fully legalize the cannabis market which was to be done under the control of the state. The regulation stated that cannabis can be attained legally using three approaches: by cultivating it for personal use, through club membership and from pharmacies which has not been implemented. In order to use the product, one must enter a confidential official registry. Boidi, et al. (2016) disclose that despite legalizing the acquisition and use of cannabis, most users in Uruguay still break the law one year after its enactment. Many consumers resort to illegal means of acquiring the product. On the basis of the Kant theory, when an action violates moral law, it then becomes unethical. As a result, running Cannabis social clubs (CSCs) as outlined in the article by Belackova et al (2016), may not be considered moral in many countries based on the fact that it breaks the set regulations.
Although Belackova et al. (2016) disclosed that members who attended the club received several benefits such as regulated use, interaction, and accessibility of quality cannabis, what is apparent on the basis of the Kant theory is that the consequence does not matter. Unlike the Unitarianism perspective which argues that the impact is significant, in the context of the Kant standpoint, the outcomes are irrelevant in outlining what is moral or what is not moral. Something that is perceived to be good is not due to what it attains, but it is rather good by its own nature.
The Kant theory also propagates the need for universalism in the choice of action (Glasgow, 2008). The theory suggests that in order for actions to be moral, they have to bring value to yourself and others. Cannabis social clubs (CSCs), are basically aimed at meeting the needs of a certain niche of adults. It can be stated that the customers as the external stakeholders are the only beneficiaries of the services offered. Such services would not be helpful to many individual in society. Consequently, on the basis of the Kant theory, running the cannabis clubs is unethical.
The Kant theory can therefore be perceived as relevant to organizations that consider upholding moral law as essential to their operations. Despite the dire necessity to meet the needs of stakeholders, such organizations choose to do so using the set moral principles. On the basis of the Kant view companies or organizations are not allowed to conduct their operations using products that are outlawed or harmful to the consumers,
The discussion above has examined the article by Belackova et al (2016) titled; Qualitative research in Spanish cannabis social clubs‘‘The moment you enter the door, you are minimizing the risks. Through the analysis of the Utilitarianism perspective, it was stated that the theory is more applicable to organizations that adopt to moral principles while also permitting flexibility that can result to breaching the set regulations. On the other hand, the Kant theory argues that organizations should always uphold ethical principle at all times without considering the consequences that are provided to the stakeholders.
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