Statement on Recreational Marijuana Legalization

Published on March 6th, 2019


In its rush to legalize so-called “recreational” marijuana
usage, we believe that our state’s elected officials are preparing to open a
Pandora’s Box that will have multiple deleterious effects on individuals,
families, and all of society.

While the Governor and some legislators see enhanced revenues for the state’s coffers through a new taxable marijuana industry, we are more concerned with consequences ranging from increased teenage and childhood usage, harmful effects on developing brains, addiction, natural progression to harder drug use, increased impairment-related transportation accidents and deaths, and other potential public health and safety issues.

Of particular concern regarding the movement toward
legalization is the impact on children, and the normalization of usage that
state approval encourages. Proponents argue that usage will be restricted to
age 21 and older but, as we have seen in the alcohol and tobacco industries,
producers of harmful products always find a way to market their products to

Studies appear to show racial and ethnic disparities in
enforcement of marijuana possession, and we take this issue seriously. The
state can and should take appropriate measures to ensure that skin color or zip
code do not result in different outcomes for the same offense, including re-evaluating
the justice of current criminal penalties for low-level possession. At the same
time, we must not simply throw up our hands and legalize a harmful substance in
order to declare the problem of discrimination solved.

The Catholic Church is not prohibitionist but at the same
time we believe the government should not be encouraging destructive behavior,
whether gambling or drug use, to raise revenue. Vice is not an appropriate
economic development engine for a state that prides itself as a national
progressive leader. Our state motto is Excelsior
(ever upward), but policies that exploit addiction instead lead us ever

We join with our state’s medical, education and law
enforcement communities in urging New York State to reject marijuana

The Catholic Conference represents the Bishops of New York
State in public policy matters.

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