Canada’s bishops reiterated their opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana Wednesday, the same day that legal marijuana sales began across the country.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops underlined “the ethical problems involved with the recreational use and abuse of this drug” in an Oct. 17 statement.
Lionel Gendron, Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, lamented the “growing problems of a society more and more dependent on drugs and alcohol,” and said that businesses and governments who wish to exploit sales of cannabis for commercial interests or tax revenue are “jeopardizing the pursuit of the common good.”
Canada is now the largest country in the world in which federal law permits marijuana to be legally sold and consumed for recreational purposes. Canada joins Uruguay as the only two countries to have legalized cannabis nationwide.
Under the new laws, Canadians will be allowed to grow up to four of their own cannabis plants, make their own cannabis products such as foods and drinks, and buy the drug from provincially-licensed stores or online.
Most Canadian provinces have set the legal age for buying cannabis at 19, the same as their legal drinking age. Ontario, the country’s most populous province, is still working on crafting regulations and likely won’t open any stores until next spring, the Associated Press reports.
The Canadian government also announced on Wednesday that they would be introducing new legislation that would allow people with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, which is the new legal threshold, to apply for pardons with no waiting period or fee. The new legislation will likely be introduced by the end of 2018, but may take some to make its way through Canadian parliament to become law.
Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001.
The CCCB previously expressed disappointment at the government’s announcement of the decision to legalize cannabis in June 2018, in a statement that was also endorsed by the Chair of the Canadian Council of Imams.
The bishops cited the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and the Canadian Paediatric Society, all of whom have pointed out that the use of cannabis is linked to numerous mental and lung problems.
“It is lamentable that the federal government has decided to facilitate the provision and use of an addictive substance that will have disastrous effects for so many people,” the bishops wrote.
The bishops asserted that their position is shared by Pope Francis, who has spoken out against even the partial legalization of so-called “soft drugs.” They assert that drug trafficking and abuse can be curtailed through education, employment opportunities, and treatment and recovery programs, rather than through legalization.
“The massive increase in cannabis use that will accompany its legalization will not produce a more just and humane society,” the bishops wrote, “But will only exacerbate or multiply problems already widespread in society, including mental illness, crime, unemployment, family breakdown, injuries and fatalities resulting from impaired driving, and increased addiction to “harder” drugs along with associated problems resulting from overdose.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2291 that the use of drugs inflicts grave damage on human health and life, and the use of drugs beyond therapeutic use constitutes a “grave offense.” It also states in paragraph 2211 that the political community has a duty to protect the security and health of families, especially with respect to drugs.