Pope Sort of, but not really, Condemns Marijuana Legalization

Evidently, “Peter” means “Rock” and not “Stoner”.

Ah me!  I slay me.

Actually, we discover that he really didn’t say anything about legalizing pot, but a) all politics is local so the article assumes he must really be talking about American Baby Boomers because what else matters? and b) I can’t resist a bad joke.

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  • Dave G.

    OK,, that was funny. But as for the story if he didn’t condemn it, he certainly didn’t give it his support. Clearly on the yes/no scale, it was heavily in the ‘no’ side. I don’t have his full comments, but based on the article linked, he seemed to be saying ‘this is not a good idea’, and ‘we need to get to the roots of the problem’. Which is sounds a lot like ‘no’.

    • Pope Francis, rightly, was addressing the ultimate solution to drug use, the substitution for natural endorphins for these artificial, partially effective substitutes. That makes his remarks orthogonal to the yes/no question of legalization.

      Somebody should ask Pope Francis about the drug war and if it’s a good idea. The same orthogonal approach he showed here also “sound a lot like ‘no'” if he would be consistent. I would expect him to be consistent.

  • kirthigdon

    Legalization of marijuana and other recreational drug use will not solve the problems caused by or leading to drug addiction. It will solve the problem caused by the mass imprisonment of large sections of the population, especially the poor, young and marginalized and in the US, racial and ethnic minorities. As our Holy Father stated, these people must be given hope, fairness and opportunity, but this will not be accomplished by locking them up.

    Kirt Higdon

    • Benjamin2.0

      When I hear the argument that legalizing drug use will free up space in prisons, I shudder. This is one of those arguments which sound really nice, but don’t have much tread. Fewer drug addicts in prison means more drug addicts on the streets. While they may not find hope, fairness, or opportunity in prison, I think there are some other, more secular ends in mind when a person is jailed, too. Better prisons which somehow counteract rather than reinforce the effects of our poisonous culture might be nice, but I’m a chemist. Don’t ask me how to do that.

      Emptying prisons is a noble end, but the means of merely legalizing widely practiced offenses is counterintuitive. It will necessarily lead to the result of more people practicing the behavior for which citizens were once jailed, for instance. The ultimate end might be reached by legalizing everything, but there would be other effects which certainly remind us why we bother to have laws to begin with.

      … aaaand now I’ve argued myself into wanting to see everything legalized. Might be worth it. “Could you stand in the winds that would blow?” No. That’s the point!

      • jroberts548

        1. The overwhelming majority of drug users aren’t addicts; they smoke pot a few times and then stop. A huge plurality of our prisoners are there for possession of relatively small amounts.

        2. Prison is the worst possible way to treat addiction. If anything, in turns non-violent drug users into gang members.

        3. Our prisons are in fact overcrowded. They’re holding way more people than they were built to hold. Our drug laws are a big part of why America has the largest prison population in the world. Even if you shudder at the thought of “emptying our prisons,” you should shake at the thought of keeping them full.

        • I don’t believe #1- and the fact that you quoted it makes me question #2 and #3.

          • jroberts548

            Whether you believe it or not, it’s true, mostly.

            38% of Americans have tried pot in their lives. http://www.gallup.com/poll/163835/tried-marijuana-little-changed-80s.aspx
            Only 9 percent of Americans have used any illegal drug at all in the past year. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends
            I.e., about three quarters of people who have smoked marijuana haven’t used any illegal drug, including marijuana in the past year.
            Of the 18 million Americans who have smoked marijuana in the last year, only about 4 million report dependence level abuse of it. Id.

            So, 38% of American adults have tried pot. About 2% use it at dependence levels. This took about a minute of googling to find out, but I appreciate your skepticism.

            More than half of federal prisoners are there for drug charges. http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Prisons_and_Drugs
            About a quarter of state prisoners are there for drug charges. Id.
            I was mistaken about state prisons. Drugs are behind violent offenses and property crimes in state prison systems. However, at higher levels of specificity, drug offenses other than simple possession are still the plurality of new admissions to state prison, and possession is behind only assault and burglary. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/p12tar9112.pdf, page 6.

            I’m not going to search for a source on whether prison is a poor way to treat drug addiction, because that’s just insane.

        • Dave G.

          As someone with a close relative addicted to heroin who has spent time in prison for his crimes related to the addiction, allow me. Pot smokers are not imprisoned for a long period. Neither are heroin addicts for that matter. There isn’t enough room. The only reason he finally went to, and stayed in, prison for a long term was the assaults and robberies associated with the addiction. Which would have happened if drugs were legal or not. Since once you become addicted, you’ll kill for the next fix, and if you don’t have money in the first place, you’ll do whatever it takes. Of course the bulk of the hard drug users, including him, began with pot. But eventually, like alcohol, food or sex addictions, they found pot didn’t satisfy, and went from there. Legalizing drugs may solve a couple problems, and certainly we can talk about modifying the laws. But legalizing drugs will just open up the possibility of more dead from OD, murders, or other crimes related to the hell pit of drug addiction.

          Oh, and he has the benefit of knowing that he will forever be a drug addict. He may resist it, but it will be a fight the rest of his life. Which is why I think the Pope’s clear disdain for the movement of legalizing drugs is wisdom demonstrated.

          • jroberts548

            I’m not saying the harms of drug addiction aren’t real. The harms of drug prohibition are also real. So when we’re setting policy for a nation, we have to weigh the harms of one against the harms of the other. This is especially the case when drug prohibition (especially as exists in America) is ineffective at preventing and treating addiction. Drug users who can’t get a job because they’ve been to jail aren’t made better off by the war on drugs. Drug users who are scared of the legal repercussions of drug use and avoid treatment, keep their drug use secret until they can’t, etc. aren’t made better off by the war on drugs.

            I wouldn’t support complete legalization of all drugs; on the other hand, complete, violent criminalization of all non-alcohol drugs isn’t doing anyone any favors. A system that encouraged abstinence or responsible use of those drugs which can be used responsibly, and a treatment-oriented approach, up to and including civil commitment, for those drugs that can’t, would be ideal.

            • Dave G.

              That’s why reexamining the way we apply the laws is fine. But legalizing drugs is just the typical post-modern golden rule: do unto others as long as it isn’t done unto me.

          • If a heroin addict can sustain his habit with a part time legal job or a part time life of crime, you’re going to have fewer addicts committing crimes. Dropping the price of heroin over the long term to its production cost makes heroin cheap enough not to have to break the law to use, even when use is serious enough to cause pretty significant dysfunction.

    • ivan_the_mad

      I won’t advocate for legalization since I absolutely agree with the pope that “[t]he problem of drug use is not solved with drugs!”, but I will advocate for the elimination of prison sentences for non-violent offenders, i.e. users. Proper medical treatment of the addiction is a much more appropriate response than jail.

  • Having said that- we are now seeing a huge problem on our borders due to illicit drugs, as the Mexican cartels move into Central America and fight for the rights to certain trade routes, victimizing the children who live there.

    This is by no means a “victimless crime” as I’ve heard one cocaine pusher describe his conviction to jail.

    • jroberts548

      During prohibition, we had gangs making huge amounts of money off of alcohol. Prohibition virtually invented American organized crime.

      Do you think the cartels could make money off of drugs if drugs were legalized? The cartels are the chief beneficiaries of America’s war on drugs. How did moonshiners fare after prohibition?

      We created the cartels. Drug prohibition is no less victimless than drug use.

      • “Do you think the cartels could make money off of drugs if drugs were legalized?”

        Yes. Because somebody still has to import them, and if you think the cartels are going to stop using violence to maintain their monopoly, you’ve taken too many drugs yourself.

        “How did moonshiners fare after prohibition?”

        A good many of them went public and legal and are still in business- and in fact, I know a few. I also know a few who didn’t go legal- and yet are still in business, having passed the still down through several generations.

        But having said that- given the current state of affairs, I can’t call choosing to take drugs a victimless crime. At all. It’s almost as bad as excessive use of gasoline, which directly funds Islamic Jihad terrorism.

        • jroberts548

          Our government is using force to maintain their monopoly. If a non-cartel member in the US wants to grow a few plants, the DEA will raid their house and shoot their dog. Who benefits from that? The cartels.

          If current cartel members went legal, is that a bad outcome? Do you not like when people obey the law?

          Do you think AB Inbev, Diageo, Brown Forman, SABMiller, or LVMH engage in gang violence to protect their brands? Do Nabisco and Altria have roving gangs to protect their brands? Nope. They’re legally operated companies. Generally speaking (except for Del Monte, United Fruit, and Exxon) American companies don’t use gang violence to promote their companies. You can make more money and are less likely to be murdered as a legitimate company than you can as a cartel.

          • Yep, but the answer to that is don’t give the cartels or the government any power- by taking the drugs, you give the cartels and the government power over you.

            “Do you think AB Inbev, Diageo, Brown Forman, SABMiller, or LVMH engage in gang violence to protect their brands? ”

            Yes, in fact they do, quite often. Violence is a necessary part of the free market. Their “gang” just happens to be the federal government office of trademark is all.

            “Generally speaking (except for Del Monte, United Fruit, and Exxon) American companies don’t use gang violence to promote their companies.”

            Only if you ignore the largest military on the planet providing these companies with protection.

            • jroberts548

              Which is also what our government does for the cartels.

              Or put it this way: Which would you rather have happen – the cartels go legal, and the only violence they use is the mostly theoretical violence the Marshals might use enforcing contempt sanctions against someone for violating an injunction (i.e., the same violence AB Inbev, etc. use), or would you rather they run around chopping off people’s heads, and have their monopolies protected by DEA and local police SWAT raids?

              Because those are the choices. There’s no choice where no one smokes pot. That’s not going to happen. Either pot growers are protected by Marshals and Sheriffs enforcing judgments or sanctions after adversarial proceedings in court, or pot growers are protected by gang violence and by the DEA.

              I’d rather take my chances with the courts and the Marshals.

              • “. There’s no choice where no one smokes pot. ”

                Are you saying humans are incapable of living without Pot? We’ve wiped out plenty of other species, it would be drop dead easy to make marijuana and hemp extinct forever.

                • jroberts548

                  I did not realize I was speaking to an expert botanist. Well, Dr. Seeber, you should probably get back to work in the lab; although, if it’s drop dead easy, I don’t know why it hasn’t been done yet.

                  More seriously, I guess that might be an option. We’d have to burn or otherwise poison a lot of places, and track down seeds, and raid a lot of houses that are growing indoors, but sure. Again, this is something where the cost of prohibition stands to be insanely high.

                  But it’s not like there’ll be any downsides to covering central and south america with agent orange and napalm. It worked before, right?

                  • Yes, that would be the extreme solution. But you’re acting like free will doesn’t exist and human beings have *NO CHOICE* but to try pot.

                    We always have a choice. There are other solutions available, and one is to reject recreational drug use entirely.

                    • jroberts548

                      People who smoke have the option not to smoke. People who murder have the option not to murder. It isn’t clear to me what that has to do with the debate over legalization – legalization and prohibition are about what we as a society acting through the government do, and not about what any individual does.

                      The rejection of recreational (non-alcoholic) drug use entirely is what our government has already done. It isn’t working.

                    • I guess I’m too Catholic. I see legal vs illegal as the government giving you a fair warning as to what they consider the ideal to be, judges as the place where mercy should happen.

                      From that standpoint, what is legal, should be only what is BEST for humanity given 20,000 years of research into what is best, what is illegal, should be everything that isn’t good given our 20,000 years of experience.

                      Sadly though, our government is based on English Common Law, not Canon Law, and due to that, has flaws.

                      It is still clearly best for the individual though, to choose to follow the law even when he doesn’t understand why the law exists.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Yet, even Catholic legal theory is more complex, as St Thomas Aquinas’ argument for the legalization of prostitution shows. He does not support prostitution, but understands morality and law, while connected, are not yet one and the same, and so canon law is also, even more, further apart from positive legal law.

                    • jroberts548

                      I suppose you also think you’re more Catholic than SS. Augustine, Isidore, and Thomas Aquinas.

                      Where are you getting your ideas about what Catholics should want the law to be? I’m legitimately curious, because I have no idea where your claim comes from.

                      ETA: see, eg, Summa Theologica I-II.96, available here: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2096.htm
                      Human law is for the common good, and not the individual good. As such, it can’t proscribe every vice or prescribe every virtue. This idea that human law should only legalize what is best, and criminalize everything else, is alien to catholic thought. It’s more appropriate to Geneva or Riyadh.

                    • No, in fact I don’t think I’m more Catholic than anybody else, and you still don’t understand the concept that *the law teaches the ideal* for the common good, but that individual judgements should be left to judges who deal in mercy and compassion.

                      I’m not for lawlessness, because without the law, there will never be any good at all, common or individual.

                      I also believe the best good is always both common and individual- and that individual good is always short sighted and evil in the long run.

                    • jroberts548

                      And what provides the standard by which judges exercise mercy and compassion? What provides the standard by which Obama teaches us what the ideal man is?

                      I don’t trust individual judges’ discretion to decide whether to be merciful. I still have literally no idea what makes you think the Catholic position requires criminalizing everything but the ideal, and trusting judges to exercise mercy and compassion.

                      If we could trust judges to appropriately exercise mercy, or if we could trust the secular government to teach the ideal, we wouldn’t need human law. We’d only need the natural law, in which case positive law legalizing or criminalizing weed wouldn’t matter.

                      ETA: But let’s grant, arguendo, that your conception of what law should be is correct. So? That definitely doesn’t describe law in America, or in any country, in the 21st century. The question of how drugs should be treated by the actually existing legal system is one that has to be answered with regard to the actually existing legal system. Regardless of what the Catholic ideal legal system is, marijuana legalization is a question of actual law, and not ideal law or conceptual law. We’re talking about actual people in jail, and actual SWAT teams, and actual judges. Even if the perfect American legal system would ban marijuana, one can still hold that legalizing marijuana would be an improvement for the actual American legal system.

                    • I see the misunderstanding. You think I’m for a secular government, or law as it has been expressed in the 21st century.

                      I’m not. I’m for actually trying to learn to combat sin with law, and make the human race BETTER instead of WORSE. We can’t do that by repeating the sins of the past.

                    • jroberts548

                      So then you should start with “I want a Catholic theocracy, I don’t believe in the long-recognized distinction between the ‘two swords,’ and in my mythical Catholic utopia, marijuana would be prohibited. Also, all public transportation infrastructure would be replaced with magic wardrobes.”

                    • And governments would be limited to 100,000 citizens directly, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.

                      I thought everybody already knew this, my mistake.

                    • jroberts548

                      Maybe you should try arguing in good faith.

                      You start with the claim that marijuana legalization is bad because of Mexican cartels. This sounds like a real world claim that is made in good faith, but is wrong. You ultimately reveal that you don’t care about cartels, but are more interested in creating an insane pseudo-Catholic Sharia theocracy, one that has no grounding in actual Catholic thought, or any connection to reality.

                    • You’re late to the party on Ted Seeber’s good faith. Just don’t start him on Cascadia.


                    • Combatting sin with law is like teaching your child by beating him. It’s a tool that is best not used but when there is no better alternative, you might be forced to it.

                      One of my children just kept going after live outlets and wires. Just saying no didn’t do the trick. I had to resort to a few smacks across the back of the hand before the message got through and I avoided that route to a funeral.

                      That’s a far cry from “three strikes” legislation and mandatory life sentences. If there’s anything that we’ve learned from the 20th century experiment in illegalization, humane jail sentences are simply not strong enough change the prohibited behavior. A new approach is necessary.

                      I do agree that simply repeating the sins of the past is not the way forward. But those are not our only options.

  • Daniel Nichols

    The pope was speaking far too broadly and not making proper distinctions. Marijuana is simply not in the same category as opiates, methedrine, crack and the rest. Or even alcohol, which is physically addictive and can be fatal. Marijuana’s medical and therapeutic uses are becoming too obvious to deny. If the Church can find room for alcohol, which is responsible for uncounted tragedy and violence, I am sure that when more is known that it will find room for the relatively benign herb that is so helpful to so many. Yes, of course it can be abused; but it is hardly in the same league as addictive and deadly drugs.

    • Not only that, but opiates are legal under certain, highly controlled circumstances and forms — morphine, codeine, and the like. At the very least I think we can legalize marijuana for its legitimate medical benefits.

    • Marthe Lépine

      What do you mean, the Church finding room for alcohol… Is not wine an alcoholic beverage? But Jesus used it to give us the Eucharist! A lot of things can be bad if abused, including alcohol. As far as I know, some drugs are worse than alcohol because even limited and reasonable use can start some of the mechanisms that lead to addiction, while only excessive use of alcohol is as dangerous.

      • Walker

        Except marijuana is not physically addicting, the way that alcohol or opiates are. In fact its effects are nothing like either. Alcohol and opiates numb and dumb, which can be fine in the right amounts, but in greater quantities, which some humans crave, it makes irrational and risky and violent behavior more likely.
        Marijuana is nothing like that. Nothing is numb; every sense is heightened. And up to a certain dosage it can stimulate creativity and expand thought, One is more likely to be cautious than reckless. Of course beyond that dosage there are dangers, but nothing like alcohol or opiates. Plus it is impossible to die of an overdose.
        And that is not even going into the benefits reported, anecdotally and scientifically. I know an Iraq veteran, who was in Fallujah at the worst, who calls it his medicine. Dude has PTSD out the wazoo, but he is mellow and sweet in demeanor.
        I, not being a veteran, would not put myself in such a category, but life has smacked me around some, and it is a godsend for my anxiety. Gives one a better, more expansive, perspective. I no longer cuss at drivers or my boss or live in constant angst.

      • Walker

        And as for your first objection, perhaps I said that poorly. Of course the Church not only found room for alcohol. It is central to the sacramental life.

      • Actually, depending on your genetic makeup alcohol can be downright dangerous even in relatively small amounts. The same is true for a lot of drugs.

        Love has as part of its reality a biological expression, most famously in the release of endorphins. drugs are often imperfect substitutes tripping those same biological reactions. But those drugs often have other effects that we lose because of how we restrict drug use through an international scheduling regime.

        Our scheduling system for restricting drug use is currently throwing off a lot of nasty side effects. The 20th century development of international drug control needs significant improvement. Some drugs should be down scheduled but the unwieldy nature of the treaty revision process makes this more difficult than it should be.

  • jroberts548

    The pope is missing half the equation. The problem of drugs isn’t solved with drugs; that’s true. However, it also isn’t solved with the war on drugs – it isn’t solved with excessive, racist incarceration; it isn’t solved with SWAT teams setting babies on fire, and it isn’t solved with prohibition creating the conditions under which cartels flourish.

    • Marthe Lépine

      If you re-read the linked article to the end, you would see what Pope Francis is actually saying about the other half of the equation. He suggests a number of ways to reduce people’s temptation to reach for illegal drugs as a way to forget the dreadfulness of their lives.

      • jroberts548

        And that’s great for the personal question of how to deal with drug abuse. I don’t see what that has to do with legalization. Are you envisioning a law requiring people to “say `yes’ to life, `yes’ to love, `yes’ to others”?

        The policy questions about drugs and the morality / personal question about drugs aren’t the same question. Whether marijuana and other drugs should be decriminalized or legalized, and whether one should say “yes” to life, etc. are different.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Seems to me that Pope Francis did not mean that there should be laws requiring people to say yes to life… He probably meant that more resources should be devoted towards more justice for poor people and that a good deal of the demand for drugs might go away.

  • tj.nelson

    Another attack on the excellent baby-boomers. We’ve given you people the freedoms you have today! Such ingratitude.


  • Mark R

    Legalisation phooey! Its main purpose is for Washington State is to rack up revenues. Otherwise I would have been for decriminalisation. As it is the State is trying to meet expenses on the citizens’ bad habits.

    • jroberts548

      The state also generates a lot of revenue due to criminalization, through interdiction and civil forfeiture. If you don’t want the state profiting off of drugs, you should oppose criminalization as well.

  • Elmwood

    not sure what to think about this, it’s complex with no easy answers. the war on drugs is a failure and a waste of money IMO. better to use that money to fight poverty around the world which may give people options other than working for drug cartels or mobsters.

    decriminalizing drug use without legalizing the sale of drugs may be a legitimate approach.

    • Dave G.

      Not according to the Pope.

      • Elmwood

        According to your interpretation of what the Holy Father said. The church rarely spells out how to legislate, she leaves that up to the laity by providing a moral framework.

        It’s not at all a black and white issue.

        • Dave G.

          Ah yes, when we get to the beloved ‘you have to interpret it correctly to know what the Church really intends to mean.’ The approach that breeds a 100% obedience from Catholics. Funny how often that is used, and how often it is condemned, and then how often it is used by those who condemn it. I’m sure supporters of Capitalism will be glad to hear the Church seldom gets into such things. Not to mention supporters of gun rights.

          • Elmwood

            Ah yes, you want simple answers for a simple world. But the world isn’t simple and neither are solutions to problems. It would be just as simplistic ( and stupid) to say legalizing drugs is the answer to drug addiction as it is to say less regulation of the economy (invisible hands theory of Adam Smith) is the answer to poverty.

            unfortunately, the left and right mostly offer emotionally charged simplistic solutions in their quest to dominate the masses, and they have been very effective in doing so.

            • Dave G.

              No, I want consistency from Catholics. For me, I’m going with the straight obvious interpretation of what the Pope said, which is actually what he said: legalizing drugs is not, repeat not the answer. What is the answer is getting to the core problems. Note he didn’t say ‘keep things as they are.’ But what he did say, in response to the wave of legalizing pot as the first step to paradise, is say that is it not (obviously) the answer. And no matter how logical I think that is, he’s the Pope. And as a Catholic, I need to listen. Or so I’ve been told when it comes to other issues. For my POV, I’m fine with taking what he said and considering it, but realizing that good Catholics in good faith can disagree. But not from what I’ve seen on the ol’blogosphere in recent years. So it’s one or the other.

  • Tom

    Given the…negative responses to the police in here, I have to wonder what you guys think of rap classics like “Fuck tha Police” and “911 is a Joke”.

  • Yes, the ultimate resolution of drug abuse is orthogonal to whether it is legal or illegal to take a substance into the body.

    That doesn’t mean that the legal/illegal issue is unimportant or doesn’t need resolving.