According to the Oregon Catholic Conference, local communities and treatment groups have expressed reservations about how the program will be applied under Ballot Measure 110. Other critics have said decriminalization of the drugs would cause more addiction by making drugs easier to acquire and by removing law enforcement and the courts from drug regulation, the New York Times reports.
“The treatment options the measure provides will be primarily funded by diverting marijuana tax revenues away from education, alcohol/drug abuse prevention and law enforcement,” said the Catholic conference, citing the Oregon Secretary of State's financial impact evaluation of the measure.
Major backers of the measure include the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which previously backed the successful 2014 Oregon ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of social media giant Facebook, and his wife Priscilla Chan have backed the measure through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
The text of the proposed act cites poor access to drug addiction treatment compared to other states. Backers of the measure argue that reduced arrests and incarceration will provide savings that can be used to make addiction treatment more widely available and free of charge. They also say drug crimes are disproportionately enforced against racial minorities.
Oregon has already legalized marijuana, which is a talking point in the proposed act.
“Oregon now receives more than $100 million in marijuana tax revenue a year,” it says. “The amount of marijuana revenue is expected to grow by more than $20 million per year.”
Oregon voters will also consider ballot Measure 109, which would legalize psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in some mushrooms, for mental health treatment. Though the FDA has deemed psilocybin a potential breakthrough therapy for major depression, studies are inconclusive. The American Psychiatric Association and the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association both oppose the measure, saying proponents overstate the drug's usefulness in treating many phenomena including anxiety and addiction, according to the New York Times.
In South Dakota, voters will consider Amendment A, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana for those 21 years and older. It would legalize possession or distribution of up to one ounce of the drug. It would require the state legislature to pass laws providing for a medical marijuana program and the sale of hemp.
Like the bishops of Oregon, the South Dakota Catholic Conference cited Pope Francis' June 2014 remarks to drug enforcement agencies. The conference also noted the Catechism of the Catholic Church's paragraph 2291, which teaches that drug use “inflicts very grave damage on human health and life.”
The conference said on its website that marijuana use overstimulates the nervous system while also decreasing high-functioning rational thought.
“Often these effects are accompanied by others, including distorted sensory perception or hallucinations, irrational anxiety or panic, diminished motor control and slowed reactions, and reduced learning and memory,” South Dakota's bishops said. “Studies have shown that impaired cognitive function continues into the workweek even after a person no longer feels intoxicated, and that regular users are at approximately twice the risk of developing psychosis as non-users.”
“Human beings are endowed by God with the gift of reason. Reason aids us in differentiating between right and wrong and is foundational for human freedom and personal responsibility,” the bishops continued. “Thus, we can understand that to directly intend to suppress our God-given rational faculties is gravely wrong.”
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They warned that in Seattle and Denver, where marijuana businesses are legal, they are disproportionately located in poorer neighborhoods. According to another analysis, every dollar raised in marijuana sales costs $4.50 in unwanted effects, primarily in healthcare and reduced workforce readiness.
In Arizona, the bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference criticized Proposition 207, called the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, which would both allow persons 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana and provide for the legal sale of the drug.
“It is anticipated that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona will lead to more abuse by teens, increase child fatalities, and result in more societal costs,” the Arizona bishops said in a Sept. 23 statement.
Legalization would send the message to children that “drug use is socially and morally acceptable,” they warned. Marijuana use is 25% higher among teens in states with legalized recreational marijuana, they said.
Self-reported use of Arizona middle- and high-schoolers has already increased because fewer youth believe it is risky, said the bishops. Marijuana is a direct or contributing factor in almost as many child deaths as alcohol, according to the state's most recent child fatality report.
“As people of faith, we must speak out against this effort and the damaging effects its passage would have on children and families,” the Arizona bishops said.