Colorado archbishop condemns drug use, ‘disastrous’ marijuana legalization in new pastoral letter – LifeSite

DENVER (LifeSiteNews) — The widespread legalization of so-called recreational marijuana has been “disastrous” not just in Colorado but in society in general, according to Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila.

Abp. Aquila released a 60-page pastoral letter titled “That They Might Have Life” on November 10.

He shared his “pastoral concern for the salvation of souls” as society is “confronted with the challenges of the broad acceptance of recreational marijuana both politically and culturally in Colorado and beyond.”

He shared a story of a recent trip to Spain where a poor person asked for money not for food, but for drugs.

“Unfortunately, addiction, mental illness, and homelessness are commonly experienced together,” he wrote. “We cannot pretend that the legalization and growing cultural acceptance of drugs do not have disproportionate effects on the most vulnerable in our society. Not only that, but it is an assault on human dignity, taking advantage of the vulnerable for the sake of financial profit.”

“Recreational” marijuana is now legal in 23 states and “medical” marijuana is legal in 38 states.

Abp. Aquila directly confronts the claims that some narcotics are moral because they help people with pain and ailments.

He writes:

Understanding that we are persons created for loving communion, we can judge that drugs are only an apparent good. They are bad for us since they hinder our ability to know and to love. As will be explained in greater depth [later in the letter], drugs diminish our self-possession by harming the very faculties that make us human: drugs inhibit our use of reason, weaken our will’s orientation toward the good, and train our emotions to expect quick relief from artificial pleasure. These effects severely limit our ability to freely give ourselves to another—whether it be temporarily, as in the case of occasional drug use, or regularly, as in the case of drug addiction. We say “no” to drugs so that we may fully say “yes” to our vocation to love.

Using drugs is both “unloving” and “immoral,” the archbishop wrote, because they “are harmful to both the mind and the body.”

He noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms this view: “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct cooperation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law,” paragraph 2291 states.

He wrote that there is no real difference between “soft” and “hard” drugs, noting the documented evidence that marijuana “causes deficits in the brain’s executive functioning, temporarily impairing coordination, concentration, working memory, and inhibition.”

The letter also included the documented harms of fentanyl, which was decriminalized by Colorado in 2019. “Although well-meaning, one study estimates that the change in classification caused at least 600 additional deaths, even when accounting for the upward trend of fentanyl use in the previous years,” he wrote.

‘Part of this virtuous life is honoring God with our bodies’

Christians then must reject drug use and work to help the drug addicted to break their vices, the archbishop wrote. Christians should also work to stop the promotion of drugs.

He wrote:

The Church also invites us to participate in the suppression of drug use. This could look like voting against the legalization of drugs if it appears on the ballot or supporting efforts to reverse prior legalization decisions. It might also include not consuming and sharing media that glorifies drug use or minimizes its dangers. Similarly, it could involve conversations with those who use drugs recreationally about their motivations for doing so and, if the relationship is sufficiently established, gently pointing them to the abundant life found in Christ.

Christians must also use Christ as a source of strength when confronting the situation of people addicted to drugs.

Abp. Aquila wrote:

While only a fraction of Catholics will ever work in drug rehab facilities, all of us can work to end the stigma that surrounds addiction by recognizing that it is a disease, being compassionate and honest with those who use drugs, and refusing to define anyone by their drug addiction but instead by their God-given identity. Additionally, many of us will support a loved one through the excruciating trial of addiction or provide encouragement to someone taking on that role.

The letter also included details on the size of the drug business and a breakdown of why marijuana is not equivalent to alcohol.

“Medicinal and recreational sales in the United States are expected to reach $33 billion in 2022 alone,” he wrote, citing Fortune.

The letter comes at a time when efforts to expand marijuana legalization continue, even in conservative-leaning states like Ohio, and activists are also pushing to study and use psychedelic drugs.