PHOENIX (CNA) — The bishops of Arizona have registered their opposition to a ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana use in the state, saying it would be harmful to families and children.
“It is anticipated that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona will lead to more abuse by teens, increase child fatalities and result in more societal costs,” they said in a Sept. 23 statement.
“Accordingly, due to these detrimental effects, we strongly oppose this dangerous proposal.”
Proposition 207, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, will appear on the ballotee in the state in November. It would allow persons 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana and provide for the sale of the drug.
The bishops noted that “legalizing the recreational use of marijuana sends a message to children that drug use is socially and morally acceptable. As people of faith, we must speak out against this effort and the damaging effects its passage would have on children and families.”
In 2016 Arizonans had voted down a similar measure Proposition 205, which the bishops also opposed.
In their current statement, the bishops said that “problematic marijuana use is 25 percent higher among teens in states that legalized recreational marijuana,” and that self-reported use of marijuana by middle- and high-schoolers in the state “has already increased over the past four years as perceptions of risk have fallen.”
They added that Arizona’s most recent child fatality report “listed marijuana as a direct or contributing factor in almost as many child deaths as alcohol.”
The Arizona Supreme Court in August rejected a legal challenge to the initiative. Opponents of the measure argued that the summary of the measure its backers put on petitions was misleading and had omissions.
A 2016 report showed that traffic deaths, crime, emergency room visits, and youth usage of marijuana increased significantly in the first two years following the legalization of recreational pot in Colorado.
Released by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area in September, the report compared marijuana-related statistics from previous years in Colorado to data from 2013-2015, the first years after the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state, through ballot initiative, in November 2012.
Bishops across the US, as well as in the territory of Guam and in Canada, have also opposed proposals to legalize recreational marijuana use in their jurisdictions.
Catholic bishops in Oregon and South Dakota have said voters should look to Pope Francis’ warnings that legalization is ‘highly questionable,’ as it becomes a compromise with drug addiction, citing the pope’s 2014 address to the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome.
“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs! Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” the pope said. “To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs’, are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.”
The South Dakota conference also noted the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraph 2291, which teaches that drug use “inflicts very grave damage on human health and life.”
Oregon voters will consider Ballot Measure 110, which would decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of controlled substances including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. It would reduce penalties for possession of large amounts of such controlled substances. Oregon had already legalized marijuana in 2014.
Oregon voters will also decide Ballot Measure 109, which would legalize psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in some mushrooms, for mental health treatment. Though the FDA has deemed psilocybin a potential breakthrough therapy for major depression, studies are inconclusive. The American Psychiatric Association and the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association both oppose the measure, saying proponents overstate the drug’s usefulness in treating many phenomena including anxiety and addiction, according to the New York Times.
In South Dakota, voters will consider Amendment A, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana for those 21 years and older. It would legalize possession or distribution of up to one ounce of the drug. It would require the state legislature to pass laws providing for a medical marijuana program and the sale of hemp.