Illinois bishops advise against legalization of marijuana in state

Marijuana plants for sale are displayed in California in this file photo. (CNS/Reuters)

The ordinaries of the five Catholic dioceses and one archdiocese in Illinois on Feb. 5 issued a statement urging state lawmakers to vote “no” on legislation being considered that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. The statement, provided by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, is as follows:

Legislation that would legalize marijuana for recreational use will be considered in the Illinois General Assembly. The Catholic bishops of Illinois are committed to the common good, and therefore advise against legalization.

Data collected by government agencies and public-interest groups document that drug use is rampant in modern society. Just a few years ago, we heard too many stories of children turned into orphans after their parents overdosed on heroin. Today, we hear of the opioid crisis and the lives it claims. If marijuana is legalized, it will only add to the problem.

Proponents of legalization say marijuana is not addictive, yet peer-reviewed research concludes that it is.  Proponents also say that most people who use marijuana will not move on to harder drugs, yet other studies note that most people who are addicted to other drugs started with alcohol and marijuana.

Advocates of legalization rightly point to the racial disparity of our jail and prison populations, noting that marijuana infractions often lead to lives trapped in the criminal justice system. We recognize the truth of that premise, while observing that recent sentencing reforms should soon reverse that trend, since possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana now results in a ticket of up to $200 and no jail time.

Medical marijuana dispensaries already exist across Illinois, ready to be converted into retail stores for customers 21 and older, leading proponents to predict that legalization will eradicate the black market. Will that actually happen, or will the black market simply sell marijuana at a lower price and to those under age?

As lawmakers consider this issue, it is important to remember they are not only debating legalization of marijuana, but also commercialization of a drug into an industry the state will profit from. In seeking the common good, the state should protect its citizens.

We ask lawmakers to say “no” to legalization of marijuana, as Pope Francis explained in 2014 when speaking about marijuana and other recreational drugs: “. . . To say this ‘no,’ one has to say ‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to others, ‘yes’ to education, ‘yes’ to greater job opportunities. If we say ‘yes’ to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.”

EDITOR’S NOTES: The bishops signing the statement included Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago; Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville; Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet; Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, of Peoria; Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford; and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield.

To view the statement in Spanish and Polish, go to:


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