Boston Catholics are at the forefront of the fight against pot

Marijuana Credit Wollertz via wwwshutterstockcom CNA 12 18 15 Wollertz via

The Church in Boston is asking voters in Massachusetts to reject the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state next week.

Question 4 is a ballot initiative that would allow individuals at least 21 years of age to use, grow, and possess recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts since 2012.

Last week, the Archdiocese of Boston donated $850,000 to oppose Question 4. According to a report from The Atlantic, the Church's donation increased the opposition effort's funding by roughly 40 percent – the other major donor was Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas billionaire who gave $1,000,000 to the opposition last month. The Knights of Columbus also gave $150,000 to fight the initiative.

Archdiocesan spokesman Terrence Donilon told CNA that the donation "was made from unrestricted Central Ministry funds. It does not come from parish collections or the Catholic Appeal nor funds designated for parish support."

It does, however, show "the fact that the Archdiocese holds this matter as among its highest priorities, with recognition that if passed, this proposed law would have a significant detrimental impact on our social service outreach and ministries," he said.

Of particular concern is the impact of marijuana on youth.

"We educate nearly 40,000 students in our schools and have a presence in 144 cities and towns through our 289 parishes," Donilon said in an e-mail.

"We hold our responsibility for the safety and well-being of children and families as paramount in all that we do. Numerous highly credentialed research studies have established the very serious damage to the physical, intellectual and emotional health of youth that is caused by marijuana use and that legalization leads. We feel an obligation to do all that we can to prevent this from occurring," he added.
In a series of videos on the subject, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, explains various reasons why he opposes the legalization of marijuana.

Working as a priest in the inner cities in Washington for 20 years and in the West Indies for 10 years, Cardinal O'Malley said he has witnessed firsthand the negative impact marijuana can have on a community.

"I saw people's lives destroyed by this drug," he said. "So often a person's first experience of a high is from marijuana, and then they're often looking for a higher high, so then they'll go on to heroin or cocaine or some other drug."

"I saw what devastating effects it had on people's lives. And the marijuana today is 10 times stronger, more potent," he added in another video.

Earlier this month, all of the Roman Catholic bishops of Massachusetts signed a joint statement opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana.

"One only has to examine the devastating impact felt in Colorado since 2013, when recreational use of marijuana was legalized, to fully grasp what would be in store in Massachusetts. A comprehensive report issued last month by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area states that, since marijuana has been legalized, traffic deaths have increased by 48 percent.

Recent statistics show that of all traffic deaths in Colorado, 21 percent of those individuals killed tested positive for marijuana. Marijuana related hospitalizations in Colorado have doubled from 2011 to 2014," the bishops wrote.

"Marijuana use and abuse by the youth of Colorado has increased by 20 percent since legalization. Young people in Colorado rank first in the nation for marijuana use – an illegal activity for anyone under the age of 21. Strikingly, this has negatively affected their family life, social life and school performance where expulsions and drop-out rates have spiked significantly. Do we really want to bring these issues to Massachusetts?" they added.

Father Richard McGowan, a Jesuit priest who studies drug and tobacco legalization at Boston College, told The Atlantic that the legalization of marijuana is going to make it "that much more difficult" for the Church to go about one of its primary tasks – alleviating poverty and building up families.

The Knights of Columbus, also donors in the campaign against legalization, told The Atlantic, "The focus of the state of Massachusetts should be on helping people, not giving them easier access to the false hope inherent in drug use, which does not solve problems but compounds them."

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In his videos, Cardinal O'Malley added that the Catholic Church is not the only institution opposed to the legalization of marijuana. He said he met with other denominations who also "see the consequences of this and are very very opposed to it."

Medical professionals as well as "the law enforcement community, the mayors, the governor, they all stand with us," he said, as well as many within the business community who are concerned about addiction to marijuana.

"It's not just the Church. We're joining with many other people who are very concerned about this in the commonwealth of Massachusetts."

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