NY bishops worry state would go up in smoke after marijuana legalization

Marijuana Credit Wollertz via wwwshutterstockcom CNA 12 18 15 Wollertz/Shutterstock.

The New York State Catholic Conference on Monday indicated its opposition to a bill that would legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana.

"New York's medical, education and law enforcement communities have urged the state to reject recreational marijuana legalization, and so does the New York State Catholic Conference," the conference said in a March 23 memo.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act is currently in committee, and has been supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of his proposed budget. The governor has said it would generate $300 million in tax revenue.

"There are many policy issues that I laid out back in January and we're going to pursue all of them," he said, according to The Post-Star.

Medical marijuana has been legal in New York since 2014.

The Catholic conference noted that the state is now "in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, and said that "it would be the height of irresponsibility for the state to legalize a substance designed to be inhaled deeply into the lungs of the user at this time in particular."

"Science has not told us yet the impact of marijuana smoke on coronavirus patients. Our health care system is poised to be flooded with patients; we must not take any action that could potentially increase bad outcomes for those who are sick."

The conference also pointed out that coronavirus has led to the closure of the capitol to visitors.

"To pass controversial legislation on major social issues at such a time when public hearings cannot be held and advocates cannot make their case would give the impression that the voice of opposition has been silenced," it said. "This is too important an issue for government officials to determine in the absence of full and open debate."

The memo referred also to the arguments in its 2019 statement opposing plans to legalize recreational marijuana.

At that time, the bishops said egalization would be disastrous, and accused the state of "encouraging destructive behavior" to raise tax revenue.

Legalizing marijuana for recreational use would be akin to opening a "Pandora's Box that will have multiple deleterious effects on individuals, families, and all of society," said the statement.

"Vice is not an appropriate economic development engine for a state that prides itself as a national progressive leader," said the bishops. "Our state motto is Excelsior (ever upward), but policies that exploit addiction instead lead us ever downward."

The bishops said that no increase in state revenue would be worth the "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."

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