The Arizona bishops have registered their opposition to a ballot initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana use in the state, saying it would be harmful to families and children.
“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,” they said in a Sept. 23 statement.
“Accordingly, due to these detrimental effects, we strongly oppose this dangerous proposal.”
Proposition 207, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, will appear on the ballot in the state in November. It would allow persons 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana, and provide for the sale of the drug.
The bishops noted that “Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana sends a message to children that drug use is socially and morally acceptable. As people of faith, we must speak out against this effort and the damaging effects its passage would have on children and families.”
They said that “problematic marijuana use is 25 percent higher among teens in states that legalized recreational marijuana,” and that self-reported use of marijuana by middle- and high-schoolers in the state “has already increased over the past four years as perceptions of risk have fallen.”
They added that Arizona's most recent child fatality report “listed marijuana as a direct or contributing factor in almost as many child deaths as alcohol.”
The Arizona Supreme Court in August rejected a legal challenge to the initiative. Opponents of the measure argued that the summary of the measure its backers put on petitions was misleading and had omissions.
A 2016 report showed that traffic deaths, crime, emergency room visits, and youth usage of marijuana increased significantly in the first two years following the legalization of recreational pot in Colorado.
Released by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area in September, the report compared marijuana-related statistics from previous years in Colorado to data from 2013-2015, the first years after the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state, through ballot initiative, in November 2012.
Bishops across the US, as well as in the territory of Guam and in Canada, have also opposed proposals to legalize recreational marijuana use in their jurisdictions.