With the legal sale of recreational cannabis going into effect last week in Colorado, CNN has released a new poll which shows that only 35% of the population believes toking up is morally wrong and a clear majority supports legalization. Unlike other hot-button social issues that are more evenly divided, faithful Catholics are decidedly in the minority here. With our faith under attack in so many other ways, we may be tempted to let this issue slide, but this would be a grave mistake.
Last summer, Pope Francis spoke plainly about the dangers of liberalizing drug policy saying, “The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage.” As Catholics, we are called to help the poor and the weak. What good does it do to volunteer at a soup kitchen or donate old clothes if we simultaneously support policies that feed into addictions that are so often at the root of homelessness in the first place?
As Pope Francis is at pains to reiterate at every opportunity, the moral law follows from our concern for our fellow man. When the Catechism states, “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life,” this is not merely some prudish moralizing. Such proscriptions are motivated by our love for our neighbors and our desire to improve the human condition in real and concrete ways instead of dulling our perception to misery and suffering.
Marijuana, like any drug, alters the mind. It produces a numbing and euphoric effect that is far more potent than alcohol or tobacco. In this altered state of mind, anyone who uses cannabis is shutting out the world and retreating into the self. This self-absorption is the root of all sin and the is exactly the opposite of our calling as disciples of Christ. We are meant to go out into the world and to live and proclaim the Gospel, not to pass out under a cloud of THC and a mound of crumbled Doritos.
The only altered state of mind that can bring true happiness is to succumb to the all-powerful embrace of God’s love. When we perform an act of charity or unite our voice with the saints in prayer, we are actively changing the world for the better. Instead of sowing pot seeds, we must sow hope and compassion not only in our own hearts, but in the hearts of others, especially the most vulnerable. To borrow from Nancy Reagan: “just say no” to drugs and just say yes to God.