Illinois Catholic bishops oppose marijuana legalization, but proponent says God put pot ‘on this planet for a reason’

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Source – https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-illinois-catholic-bishops-marijuana-legalization-20190204-story.html

The Roman Catholic bishops of Illinois on Monday came out against the legalization of recreational marijuana, warning that it will only worsen problems of drug use and addiction.

The six bishops of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, including Archdiocese of ChicagoCardinal Blase Cupich, cited studies showing that cannabis is addictive, and that many people addicted to other drugs started with alcohol and marijuana.

The bishops’ advisory comes as Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation to authorize recreational cannabis use for adults 21 and older. Sponsors argue that the criminalization of marijuana has led to disproportionate incarceration of minorities, that legalization can generate hundreds of millions of tax dollars, and that regulation will improve public health.

With the support of Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, the measure is expected to pass this spring and take effect by next year. That follows growing public support for legalization, which has been approved in 10 states so far, though it remains illegal under federal law.

The bishops argue that recent laws to decriminalize possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana should reverse racial disparities in the law, without full legalization. And they worry that the legal market won’t eliminate illegal sales, but merely cause pot to sell at lower prices and to underage users.

“… Drug use is rampant in modern society,” the bishops wrote in their statement. “If marijuana is legalized, it will only add to the problem.”

The bishops quoted Pope Francis in 2014 opposing any use of marijuana or other drugs. The pope cautioned that using one drug as a substitute for others, as marijuana has been used in place of narcotics, is to surrender to the problem.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference, noted that cannabis impairs memory, coordination and judgment, and that the state will be profiting off an addictive substance.

The bishops only occasionally take stands on public issues, such as against abortion and the death penalty. In this case, Gilligan will be speaking out against legalization at upcoming public hearings in Springfield.

“This is an important enough issue that we have the obligation to say something,” he said.

Dan Linn, executive director of the Illinois chapter of the pro-cannabis group NORML, and general manager of Maribis medical marijuana dispensaries in Chicago and Springfield, said marijuana has proved safer than alcohol, and that prohibition simply doesn’t work. By overseeing legal marijuana sales, he said, the state will have a much greater ability to regulate it.

“Cannabis is a natural substance,” he said. “God put it on this planet for a reason. I don’t know why the bishops are concerned about undermining God’s credibility.”

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