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Recreational marijuana use is contrary to Catholic teaching, British Columbia, Yukon bishops say

By  Canadian Catholic News
  • December 3, 2018

The Catholic bishops of British Columbia and the Yukon have issued a pastoral statement on legalized marijuana that endorses medical cannabis but stresses that recreational use is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.

“Deliberate intoxication, whether through alcohol or marijuana, is wrong for several reasons,” states the letter, released Nov. 30, six weeks after recreational marijuana use was legalized in Canada.

Signed by seven bishops from Vancouver to Whitehorse, the statement acknowledges there are “different reasons for using cannabis,” and while “some of those uses are acceptable,” others are not. When dispensed to alleviate pain or control nausea, marijuana use is “no different than the use of any other medicine that helps promote health and well-being,” the statement says.

But calling smoking a “serious health hazard,” the bishops warn that marijuana has intoxicating effects, resulting in users experiencing a “high,” which can lead to loss of good judgment and immoral choices.

“In the Catholic tradition, the recreational use of a substance merely for its intoxicating effects, rather than therapeutically, is not permitted,” the statement said.

The bishops also point out that some research indicate ill effects on the brains of marijuana users under 25 years old. People using cannabis to escape psychological hardship are urged to seek professional medical and therapeutic help. 

“If someone you love is abusing drugs — cannabis, alcohol, or other substances — then that person should be assisted in getting help,” they write. 

The letter is signed by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, of Vancouver, as well as Bishops Gary Gordon of Victoria, Stephen Jensen of Prince George, Greg Bittman of Nelson, Joseph Nguyen of Kamloops, Hector Vila of Whitehorse and Ken Nowakowski of the Ukrainian Eparchy in New Westminster.

Its tone contrasts with a statement released in June by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which called the legalization of recreational marijuana disappointing and disastrous.

“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,” they wrote.

The bishops questioned the legalization of marijuana “at a time when so many resources are already being spent to discourage recreational tobacco use,” and while effects of legalization could be “arguably much more dangerous.”

The B.C. and Yukon statement comes on the heels of a new national survey that found Canadians have concerns about legalizing recreational cannabis. The Angus Reid Institute found three-quarters of Canadians believe the minimum age to purchase and use cannabis should be raised. The minimum age is 19 in every province and territory accept Quebec and Alberta, where it is 18.

The study also found that while legalization created a buzz in the news, 35 per cent of Canadians were not pleased or disappointed with the new law, rating it a low priority among other issues facing Canadians.

It also found one-in-four Canadians reported shopping for, purchasing or using cannabis during the first two weeks of legalization.

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