Editorial: Into the weeds

With the opening of stores in two states this year that sell recreational marijuana, the pro-cannabis movement in the United States seems to be gaining momentum. Shops in Colorado and Washington now offer the drug in oils, lotions and lip balm, as well as in edible forms (such as gummies, drops or caramels) and traditional “joint” style. Websites make it easy for cannabis-seekers to hunt down storefronts like “Evergreen Apothecary” and “Cannabis City.”

The movement could be bolstered again this fall, when voters in Alaska and Oregon can decide to legalize recreational pot. Already, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for medical use. Pot, too, seems to have the green light from many in the media. The New York Times editorial July 27 called for the “repeal” of pot “prohibition,” and The Boston Globe featured a glamorized travel article July 26 in which a young Colorado native returned home and spent a few days getting high with her friends and family.

‘Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise.’

But legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes creates some serious concerns where family, community and morals are concerned, as outlined in this week’s story about a panel conversation on the subject organized by the Archdiocese of Denver (Page 4).

First, legalized marijuana presents an increased danger to teens and young people. Many stats show that only 9 to 10 percent of people who experiment with marijuana become addicted, but that number jumps to 17 percent when those who experiment are teenagers, said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a recent interview with USA Today. That number jumps to 50 percent, she said, when people smoke the drug daily.

Second, marijuana today is different from that of decades past. More potent forms — meant to be eaten or inhaled in vaporized form — result in a much stronger high than smoking a traditional strain of the drug. Many of these “edibles” are candies, appealing to children.

Third, using marijuana invites a drug “culture” into your community or family that could lead to other dangers. The story of Geoff Bennett’s daughter in this week’s issue is a prime example.

Fourth, marijuana can be a regressive tax, appealing to the less-educated with lower incomes, despite the trendy atmosphere of boutique-like stores.

Finally, using marijuana leads to clouded judgment, which can alter consciousness, impair decision-making and lead to making questionable moral choices.

Pope Francis has come out strongly against the legalization of recreational drugs. “The problem of drug use is not solved with drugs,” he said when meeting with participants of the 31st International Drug Enforcement Conference in June.

“Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” the pope said. “To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem.”

Legalized marijuana is yet another front in the many continuous culture wars in the United States. To help combat it, we recommend that other dioceses and archdioceses follow the example of the Archdiocese of Denver and initiate conversations to spread awareness of dangers of legalizing the drug for recreational use. We recommend that parents be up front with children about its realities and dangers.

And we echo Pope Francis when we say the problem of drug use cannot be solved with more drugs.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor