New York is set to become the 15th state, as well as the District of Columbia, to legalize recreational marijuana. (CNS photo)
New York is set to become the 15th state, as well as the District of Columbia, to legalize recreational marijuana. (CNS photo)

The New York State Catholic Conference slammed the recent legislation of recreational marijuana in the state, calling it “terrible policy” that sends a bad message to children.

On March 30, the State Senate voted, 40-23, in favor of the legislation. Later that evening, the State Assembly voted, 100-49, in favor of the bill.

Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly signed the bill into law March 31, making New York the 15th state in the country, along with the District of Columbia, to have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

“The passage of legislation to legalize possession and consumption of marijuana for recreational use in New York State is a terrible policy that sends a message to children that marijuana is harmless fun endorsed by the state,” said Dennis Poust, interim executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC), in a statement.

While the passage is a blow to opponents of the bill, the legalization of recreational marijuana has been on the horizon for some time. The NYSCC had been eyeing the passage since the start of the year, and given the state’s ongoing budget crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic, recreational marijuana was seen as a hopeful source of revenue in New York State. The budget crisis, which was exacerbated by a second wave of the coronavirus and a lack of federal aid, had left Gov. Cuomo to deal with a $15 billion revenue shortfall — the largest in the state’s history — and a growing deficit of almost $60 billion.

Still, Poust says that fighting a deficit with drugs isn’t the answer: “The lure of money should never overcome what is best for society, especially children. Sadly, that is what has occurred in Albany.”

Furthermore, the NYSCC worries that this is a short-term solution that would lead to long-term health issues.

“The impact of today’s ultra-potent marijuana on developing brains is unclear,” Poust said. “What is clear is that marijuana is a gateway drug that will have detrimental effects on untold numbers of young people and compound the current health crises of teen vaping and drug use, and will result in higher incidence of impaired driving and operation of machinery by adults.

“Furthermore, to legalize recreational use of a substance designed to be inhaled deeply and held in the lungs is never a good idea, but at this particular moment in history when we are suffering from a horrific pandemic involving a novel virus that attacks the lungs, it is the height of irresponsibility.”