The New York State Catholic Conference called on the state's legislators to reject any proposal that would legalize recreational marijuana use. (CNS photo)
The New York State Catholic Conference called on the state's legislators to reject any proposal that would legalize recreational marijuana use. (CNS photo)

Officials at the New York State Catholic Conference are opposed to the state’s recent push to legalize recreational marijuana. 

At his annual State of the State speech, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for New York to legalize recreational marijuana. The governor also outlined the regulations and taxes needed to make the new industry happen in his budget proposal for 2019. 

In a statement released on March 6, the NYSCC said that such an act would “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,” said the NYSCC.

The Catholic Conference argues that legalization could lead to “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.”

Studies have historical shown racial and ethnic disparities in the enforcement of marijuana possession, something the NYSCC takes very seriously: “The state can and should take appropriate measures to ensure skin color or zip code do no result in difference outcomes for the same offense.” 

The Catholic Conference supports re-evaluating the status of criminal charges and penalties for a low-level possession of marijuana, but at the same time, notes that “we must not simply throw up our hands and legalize a harmful substance in order to declare the problem of discrimination solved.”

While medical marijuana is legal in more than half of the states, including New York, only 10 states and the District of Columbia allow recreational marijuana usage. 

In a recent study by the Siena Research Institute, 56 percent of New Yorkers polled supported the passage of recreational marijuana; 41 percent opposed. 

“The Catholic Church is not prohibitionist,” said the NYSCC. “But at the same time we believe the government should not be encouraging destructive behavior, whether gambling or drug use, to raise revenue...Our state motto is Excelsior (ever upward), but policies that exploit addiction instead lead us ever downward.”

The New York State Catholic Conference represents the state Bishops on public policy matters. To read their full statement, visit: https://www.nyscatholic.org/statement-on-recreational-marijuana-legalization/