The Catholic Church Should Not Condemn Marijuana Use


The Catholic Church continues to be hypocritical so long as it retains its strong stance against the use of marijuana. (Courtesy of Flickr)

By Faustino Galante

The Catholic Church continues to be hypocritical so long as it retains its strong stance against the use of marijuana. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Many people do not know that the Roman Catholic Church is a major opponent of marijuana use. On June 20, 2014, Pope Francis spoke out against the recreational use of drugs, including marijuana, stating, “Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are…highly questionable.” The Church has also donated to anti-marijuana campaigns across the United States. According to The Boston Globe, in 2016, the Church spent $850,000 in 2016 to defeat a state ballot meant to legalize the recreational use of the drug.

The Roman Catholic Church’s condemnation of marijuana is hypocritical in nature. The Church should revoke its disapproving position on cannabis use; marijuana has medicinal qualities and is a safer substance than alcohol and tobacco. To stay relevant, the Church must keep up with a constantly evolving society.

The Catholic Church proves skeptical on the effectiveness of medical marijuana. Last year, Catholic Bishops from Florida publicly “expressed ‘concerns’ on medical marijuana.” The Bishops claimed that though legalizing the drug medically held the potential to benefit many, it could also be problematic. They worried that medical legalization in Florida could cause fraud, abuse, health-risks, youth accessibility and no assurances of quality. According to them, the risks involved with legalizing the drug’s medicinal use outweigh the benefits.

The fact that the Church so strictly denounces marijuana use while showing some leniency towards alcohol and tobacco is both hypocritical and somewhat ironic. It seems as though simply because society considers pot immoral and alcohol acceptable, the Church follows suit. The Church deems marijuana smoking sinful on the basis that it holds mind-altering capabilities.

The recreational legalization of marijuana is a hotly debated topic. While many, including the Catholic Church, believe it would be damaging to society, the legalization of the drug’s recreational use could prove beneficial in a number of ways. The Catholic Church explicitly condemns the dealing of illegal drugs. According to a 2008 article published by Fox News, the Vatican added seven new deadly sins “for the age of globalization.” One of the sins on the list is drug dealing. The recreational legalization of marijuana would allow governments to regulate the drug. This would “curb the black market” and pose a threat to the business of drug dealers. If the Church wishes to abolish drug dealers, supporting the legalization of recreational cannabis would be a small step in the right direction. The legalization of recreational marijuana could compromise a sinful black market.

On Oct. 28, 2016, The Boston Globe reported that the Boston Archdiocese spent $850,000 of tax exempt funds to fight the state’s ballot measure, Question 4. The bill legalized cannabis for recreational use for people over the age of 21. The Church’s funds, according to The Globe, funded advertising campaigns and sent materials to parishes and schools condemning the state’s proposed measure. The Church’s decision to donate such a great amount of money to an anti-marijuana campaign is unprecedented and ludicrous. Terrance Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, defended the donation stating, “It reflects the fact that the archdiocese holds the matter among its highest priorities. It’s a recognition that, if passed, the law would have significantly detrimental impacts on our parishes, our ministries.”

The Church’s rationale that Question 4 would be “significantly detrimental” to it is wrong. Legalizing cannabis would have no drastic impact on the Church’s ministry. For this reason, a donation so large seems unfit. The $850,000 could have gone to a much better cause. The Church, furthermore, fails to recognize the inefficiency of campaigns against marijuana. A 2008 research study on the effectiveness of drug campaigns revealed that participants “who were primed with anti-drug PSAs were more curious about using drugs than those that hadn’t seen the PSAs.” Essentially, drug campaigns spur curiosity among its audiences and acts as a “motivational force” to try something new.

The Church’s donation to anti-marijuana campaigns in Boston was unjustified. Question 4 fails to pose a direct threat to the Catholic Church. Anti-marijuana campaigns, moreover, are inefficient. The Catholic Church should allow society to determine whether it deems recreational cannabis reasonable. Its interference and input on the matter is simply unsolicited and unnecessary.