Friday at the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome, Pope Francis came out strongly against the legalization of recreational drugs. The Pontiff was sending a message to lawmakers worldwide that he feels the growing trend toward legalizing recreational drugs is a horrible idea, reports CNN. Francis has spoken of the dangers of drugs in the past, but now he is adding the authority of the Catholic Church to the growing debate over the legalizing or decriminalizing of recreational marijuana use.
In December Uruguay, next door to Francis’ native Argentina, approved a measure to create a regulated marijuana marketplace and approved selling marijuana cigarettes in pharmacies. Jamaican officials plan to change their country’s laws to decriminalize marijuana use and possession. In the United States, Colorado and Washington have already legalized marijuana, with several other states planning to follow suit. In Maryland’s gubernatorial race, candidate Heather Mizeur’s platform includes the legalization and taxation of marijuana.
Marijuana is still illegal under current US federal law. In May the House voted to restrict the DEA from going after state-legal medical marijuana business. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a similar amendment in the Senate. Twenty-two states have legalized medicinal marijuana and New York is poised to become the 23rd. Alaska and Oregon may vote on similar measures later this year. Sixteen states have already decriminalized marijuana.
Public opinion has been rapidly shifting toward softer marijuana policies. An ORC International survey discovered 55% of respondents wanted to see marijuana made legal, which is considerably higher from the 16% in the 1987 survey. The Pontiff has often surprised the Holy See with his progressive views on homosexuality, atheism and capitalism. His stand on marijuana legalization is at odds with the growing push for it.
Pope Francis spoke to the conference participants, “The scourge of drug use continues to spread inexorably, fed by a deplorable commerce which transcends national and continental borders. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce desired effects.”
During a visit at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last year Francis said, “A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future.”
A day before Pope Francis’ visit to Calabria, Italy’s home to the infamous ‘Ndrangheta mafia, an organization believed to control a large portion of the global trade in illegal narcotics, he said in a radio address, “Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. Here I would reaffirm what I have stated on another occasion, no to every type of drug use! It is as simple as that.” Saturday Pope Francis told Italian Mafia members that they are excommunicated from the Catholic Church.