The Problem of Pot. A Reflection on the Increasing Legalization of Marijuana

012614It is perhaps emblematic of our decadent times that the two most noteworthy legal maneuvers of late, occupying significant time and resources of the the legislative and judicial branches are: providing legal recognition to homosexual unions, and the legalization of the smoking of marijuana. Welcome to the decadent West.

To these legal maneuvers it must be added to other ignominies of recent decades such as no-fault divorce and the horrifying legalization of the killing of the unborn; 53 million dead Americans and counting, plus the untold cost of the destruction of marriage and family as we once knew it.

Maybe there is a certain perverted “Logic” to wanting to legalize getting stoned. People after all need to medicate their anxious and bewildered souls! I say this, of course, tongue-in-cheek.

I think this is the first time I have commented on the increasing attempt to legalize the use and sale of marijuana “in small amounts.” Frankly, there are bigger issues. Most of us know that pot has been around for a while is probably here to stay. Nevertheless our insistence that we legalize its selling and use is not a healthy sign.

I suppose the libertarian in me says, “Why should the government care if people smoke a little weed. But the pragmatist in me says, “The last thing we need is a more widespread use of another mind altering drug that makes people, frankly, stupid.”

A few disclaimers, before I make my main point.

1. Some claim, that alcohol has caused far more harm than pot. This is probably so. But of course alcohol is more widely used, and that surely explains its more devastating effects in our culture. And it hardly makes sense to argue that sanctioning another legal mind altering drug will have little or no effect through traffic accidents and other deleterious behaviors. Of course it will, being out of our right mind is seldom going to produce good effects.

The bottom line is alcohol has been with us almost from the beginning, and is here to stay. It is in a different category that other drugs in that the Scriptures permit, even commend its moderate use, and Jesus made wine and used it for the sacrament of his Blood.

No one would argue that alcohol abuse is a good thing. Why add to the problem with pot?

2. Some say that legal sanctions are not the proper way to deal with drug use. To some degree it is reasonable to argue that incarcerating people with drug problems is not a wise approach. Perhaps it is these more punitive measures that need adjustment, rather then sanctioning the use of marijuana by the removal of most legal obstacles to its sale and use.

3. Some say that laws will not stop the use of pot, it is a cultural trend and people who want to use it will find a way. I will say that law has influenced me. Knowing that something is illegal and carries possible severe legal issues influences my thinking an helps my choice to stay away from such proscribed behaviors, not just with drugs, but other illegal activities too. I doubt I am alone. Law does have a pedagogical (educational) function.

4. I ought to say, I have never even tried pot. Frankly I have never even taken a drag on an ordinary cigarette, not even once. The thought of dragging filthy smoke into my lungs has never had any appeal to me. I like the smell of a good cigar or pipe, or incense but I have no interest in dragging that stuff into my lungs in large and literally choking quantities. That the anti-smoking zealots are not on the warpath about smoking dope is a puzzling silence and probably another example of the self-censorship of political correctness.

But on to the main point, Namely, a discussion I would like to have about the observed effects of marijuana use. I want to say that the reflections I offer, are anecdotal; they are not rooted in advanced statistical studies. Frankly, I don’t have a lot of interest in looking up the statistical surveys on pot use, most of which will be questioned by anyone who doesn’t like the results anyway. I am more interested in having a discussion here about the effects of marijuana use as I have observed them, and to inquire of your own experience with having either used marijuana, or observed others who do.

Some say that pot causes no harm. I disagree from about fifty + years of observation of what I have seen it do to others.

Back in high school (mid 70s) about 30% of the students in my Public High School of 3,500 students smoked dope regularly. They called in “partying” “getting stoned” or “getting high” in those days.

It wasn’t hard to know when someone started using marijuana. Almost instantly their over all attitude changed. Many who had been good students, engaged and talented, started to withdraw, and adopt a passive aggressive stance.

Regular pot use by them, from my observation, caused a kind of lethargy, a sort of laid-back, who-cares attitude often mixed in with a non-complaint resistance: “Hey man, I ain’t got to go to the man’s class…”

The look on the face of pot users came to seem vacant and dull, their eyes glazed and unfocused. Their posture became slouchy, clothing and hygiene suffered. Absenteeism and tardiness increased. And when they were in class at all, they weren’t really engaged or alive. Their faces tended to take on a kind of hang-dog look, jaw half open, hands in their pocket, shirt untucked; they seemed bored with life, and uninterested. Frankly, they seemed “medicated.”

Generally grades dropped and anti-social tendencies increased. Some who had once played sports withdrew when drugs entered. Membership in other clubs also ceased and was replaced with hangin’ out in the smoking court, a place (in those days) set aside for students who smoked cigarettes.

Now mind you these were the after-effects of pot use. I am not saying they were “high” all the time. But long after the high was gone, these lethargic symptoms lingered and became a rather stable part of their disposition.

Except for those who are in more advanced stages of alcohol abuse, the effects of the alcohol abate after intoxication passes (plus perhaps a brief hangover). But pot seems different, it seems to alter the personality more “stably” so that the user is dull even when not high.

Some may call this dullness by more positive labels such as being laid-back, carefree, or cool. But I am sorry, I have seen spiritually serene people, and they don’t come across as medicated. What a spiritually serene person manifests is worlds apart from the dulled medicated look of pot smokers.

Now as I say, this is my anecdotal testimony. But I offer it with fifty-two years experience, 25 of them as a priest and counselor.

Pot is no good. It messes with your mind on a semi-permanent basis, causes lethargy, dullness and makes you unmotivated. Getting “high” introduces a kind of dull and low bottom dwelling when the “high” is gone.

Don’t do drugs. Pot is not harmless, it will change your personality and make you dull of mind and heart. It introduces stinking thinking.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

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 co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law. (# 2291)

This is pretty unambiguous and something a Catholic ought to take to heart before saying the legalization of drugs is no big deal. And while many say pot is harmless, my experience of observing others is that it is not harmless at all.

How say you? What have you observed?

This song by Joe Walsh was a favorite in the late 70s and celebrated drug use, but also illustrated the fogged in, confused and anti-social tendencies that resulted from it. Perhaps the most classic line from this song is: I go to parties, sometimes until four. It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door.  Vacant, empty and stinking thinking.

92 Replies to “The Problem of Pot. A Reflection on the Increasing Legalization of Marijuana”

  1. I’m worry that the STONED BUS DRIVER will be so high that he will crash his bus into my car!

  2. Agree wholeheartedly, Msgr. It’s so dangerous to tell teens/college students that this is legal … Some of them will now definitely try it. This issue disgusts me as my eldest is off to college next year and I don’t want him near drugs, ever. I have also never smoked cigarettes or drugs and I am so glad that those things never interested me. During college, I definitely saw the effects of drug use on others; it was not pleasant.

  3. I would say you have made all the valid and pertinent points concerning the realities of marijuana use and the drug culture in general. The arguement really centers around the politics involved that has brought us to this point. You have a president of the United States who has openly admitted to using a number of illicit drugs underdstanding the nature of their effects and a liberal (progressive) political base that has everything to gain by having been responsible for leagalizing it’s use and creating a lethargic, mind numbed voter base. As their affordable care act evolves and fully kicks in, after the next mid-term election, thanks to illegal presidential mandates massaging and delaying it’s ever changing implementation for political expediency, they are going to depend on a society too lazy and dumb to stand up and realize their liberties and constitutional rights are being removed by fundementally changing the rule of law from the power of the people to the power of the fedral government or the imperial president at hand. Fudamental state- you get stoned ( fund a mental state) of mind numbed youths who will be enslaved to the federal debt to pay for this social montrosity of a trainwreck. This is no longer a stretch, it is becoming a reality. I fear you have far too long given this corrupt and deceptive administration the political correctness benefit of the doubt. Jesus was a pragmatist not a libertarian and as a shepherd he pointed out the wolves to His flock without worrying about political correctness. I am with you on this subject but you left out the most important part of the arguement. Reality.

  4. I’m the same age as you, and I would say that I agree with you on what I’ve seen of the results of pot smoking. In particular, I know someone our age who has continued to smoke pot all this time since high school, probably close to every day. He has no family, no career, not even a steady job. It never really seemed to bother him until now, but I’m not sure he’ll be able to change any of his habits.

  5. I have always felt that marijuana should not be legalized or made acceptable. But in our wishy washy world, the concept of calling its use a mortal sin is a bit controversial. Msgr., based upon the CCC you cited, it would seem its use is definitely in the mortal category. I think so. How can one best explain this to someone who thinks it harmless, just like getting drunk? (which can also be a mortal sin)

  6. Monsignor,
    I was intrigued by your invitation: “I am more interested in having a discussion here about the effects of marijuana use as I have observed them, and to inquire of your own experience with having either used marijuana, or observed others who do.” So this has given me the incentive to write again.
    Before you had given your date of birth, I would have thought that we almost the exact same age. Age is somewhat irrelevant but it does put us all into a certain timeframe in history, which gives each person a slightly different perspective during their ‘formative’ years. But in fact, I am a couple weeks shy of 58.
    Also I think I am not a good ‘blogger’ because I write too much. But again, I suppose: “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam, says Eileen the Knucklehead.” I think there is an inherent desire in people to be ‘known’ or to ‘express’ themselves. The trouble with me is that if something can be said in 7 words, I tend to require 70×7 words in order to feel that I have expressed myself. So I apologize to your readers if I am too verbose! Please just skip past my blog and read the others because I cannot change the color of my spots.
    I went to Catholic school through 8th grade with the same ~30 kids, sitting in the same room all day with the same nun teaching us in all subjects. The next year might be a different room and a different nun; but it was not like high school where there was a different teacher, in a different part of the campus, each teaching a different subject. The graduating class of 1974 had ~630 students. So you can imagine the culture shock that met me by the change of schools.
    One example: I was at the house of one of my friends from Catholic school and the kids all wanted to “get stoned”. I kept asking, “Why do you want to get stoned?” I seriously did not know what this meant and thought they wanted to have rocks thrown at them until they were dead. My friend (the only other Catholic) finally said to me, when she realized that I honestly did not understand, said: “Oh Eileen! You are so BIBLICAL.” I still never knew what that meant, but by her tone, could figure out that she did not consider this to be good. So they all left and “got stoned.” The next time I saw her, I was surprised that she was alive, with not even a bruise on her. By this example, anybody can see how naïve I was.
    Entering high school, I was very self-assured in all ways: athletics, scholastics, emotions, morals, convictions etc. But because the school I came from did not have ‘accredited’ teachers, I was tested to see if I met the minimum standard to enter the public school system. My parents were wise enough to NOT tell me this until later in life, but I not only met the entry requirements, but I also met the exit requirements. In other words, I could have graduated from high school without even taking one single class. But a 13 year old is not ready for college and I was not EVEN close to being ‘mature’ in the ways of the world. I thank God regularly that I still am not mature in the ways of the world!
    Just as your high school had “the smoking court”, ours had the “south lawn”. It was the same thing, a place where all the ‘losers’ (in my opinion) hung out and did whatever they did. I could NOT believe that kids actually TRIED to get into trouble or misbehave. It was simply inconceivable to me! I thought they were ‘stupid’ and wanted nothing to do with them.
    My 1st year in high school was extremely traumatic to me. Thank God again that I had habitual self-assurance plus a stable family. I was traumatized to walk through the hallways from one class to the next. I found sanctuary in the school library because it was quiet and I felt comfortable there. The 2nd year, I was ‘saved’ by learning there was an athletic department. I instantly became the ‘brainy-jock’. But all of these titles meant nothing to me because I was so self-absorbed (or self-abandoned?) that I cared NOTHING of what other people thought of me. I have found that this ‘trait’ has continued all of my life. I am SO grateful that I have been ‘counter-cultural’ all of my life because it allowed me to grow internally and spiritually.
    This is NOT to say that I never strayed. But by the Grace of God, I returned to the faith after ~5 years of attempting to ‘fit in’. During that time though, I was never comfortable or happy or content as I was while in the state of grace. It was good to “come home” to the faith.
    I tried smoking cigarettes and even smoked a few packs of them. But I am glad that I do not have an addictive nature because, even as I was smoking them, I thought: “This is stupid.” I suppose ‘stupid’ was one of my favorite words. I even smoked a portion of 3 marijuana joints. But I thought that was stupid too.
    Now here comes the REAL kicker! My youngest brother had MS and along with that, projectile vomiting. My mother, who was an EXTREMELY straight-laced Catholic, asked my husband if he could get some marijuana for Michael because she had heard that it had the ability to control vomiting. She intended to make a tea of it for him to drink. This shocked me, to say the least. But what it did was cause me to rethink things from a different perspective, because I must reconcile faith with logic. I don’t think that I have never been a ‘blind faith’ person. So when faced with a dichotomy, I am determined to figure it out.
    I reconciled this in my mind with the fact that when God created the universe, He said that it was good – that it was VERY good. That means that everything in the world is good. But it is the abuse of what is good that is ‘bad’. Since the mucus membranes are one of the quickest ways for chemicals to be introduced into the body, smoking (or snorting) gives the quickest ‘high’, or the most effective way of administering a drug – as my brother was given sublingual (underneath the tongue) morphine near the end because it is absorbed very quickly, second only to intravenously.
    So I suppose that in my idyllic thinking, I wish science would use their talents to find herbs and plants to help or cure illness and that people who abuse nature (in any form) would stop doing this, for their benefit and the benefit of all who are adversely affected by their actions.

  7. I’ve observed the same things. Pot alters people quite a bit, and in many ways. You’ ve also got to think that if there are so many readily observable changes, there are probably a lot more, subtler, less obvious effects as well. And all the changes do seem to add up to a pretty negative result, a pall that seems to settle over the whole person, which can be sad to see. It seems a very bad sign for our times that so many people are interested, and so deeply interested, in obtaining and using something like this.

  8. I too have an adult former friend who started smoking pot in high school. He was bright, and it ruined him. He still smokes, does not have a steady job, is 53 years old and is now living off the remains of his father’s estate. Very sad. Pot smoking or getting drunk is a mortal sin because it is a serious matter and the decision to start (and for pot – to continue) was deliberate.

  9. I contrast the coverage in the CCC between its treatment of alcohol & tobacco and drugs:

    2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air. (1809)

    2291 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 co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.

    And from a Scriptural POV, we have some verses like this:

    Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery (φαρμακεία – pharmakeia), hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, 15 drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    φαρμακεία, from φάρμακον, according to Lidell, Scott & James includes both healing remedies and charms/spells (I think it would be fairly obvious to most that the above is not a condemnation of all remedies)

    Where I have an issue is that 2290 stresses excess and not endangering others through our acts. 2291 seems to have an emphasis on the illicit production and use of drugs and the dangers that presents to the individual and society (which sort of implies the dangers of illicit drugs or the abuse of legal drugs)

    The trouble is that if the condemnation of drugs (except for strictly therapeutic use) is blanket, regardless of the civil legality of the substance, then 2291 tells us that we should all put down our coffee, our coca-cola, and our energy drinks because they all contain caffeine — a drug. While 2290 makes specific reference to alcohol and tobacco (moderation for both), 2291 does make any distinction of “mind altering” drugs, “illegal” drugs, “addictive” drugs, or the like. It simply says “drugs” (or in the French original, “L’usage de la drogue”)

    As a caveat, I am *not* advocating the further legalization of marijuana…as with you, I remember the 70s very well. I don’t think we need to have a batch of stoned-out zombies floating around our society. The question is if a person living in Colorado (and soon to be Maryland and DC) commits an act of imprudence by smoking a joint purchased legally at the pot shop or if the act, in that specific circumstance, is objectively grave matter (which, if done with full knowledge and full consent of the will would be a mortal sin).

    1. As with any statement from the catechism, certain other things need to be presumed in interpreting the text. For example, in speaking of the use of drugs as a grave (or mortal) sin, there must be presumed that the three elements (grave matter, sufficient knowledge and full consent) are present and active.

      As for your other points, related to the vagueness of the term “drugs” that is a problem. But I don’t think the term “drugs” is a “blanket condemnation as you suppose. The Catechism’s term requires of us the use of some common sense. I suppose it is left open since the catechism is not merely a statement of faith and doctrines, it is also a pastoral document that requires application of its principles through skilled preaching and teaching.

      So where does common sense come in? I would argue that there is pretty wide consensus among the faithful that caffeine is not a drug like pot or even alcohol, such that it impairs the intellect. Tobacco is another, and changing matter. I think that it has moved from the “harmless in moderation” category more toward an outright sin, given what we know of its devastating effects on health. I am sympathetic to an older person who has long smoked and started at a time when it was common and considered harmless. But I am far less sympathetic to a young person who surely knows the incredible harm of dragging smoke into their lungs. To begin smoking now is, to my mind, a grave offense against the body.

      My point in raising these things things is that the catechism’s vagueness about “drugs” may have a purpose, since that landscape does change across time and cultures. To specifically list certain drugs would likely make the list outdated before it even hit the printers. Back in the mid-eighties, many drugs on the streets today either did not exist or were called by other names. Hence “drugs” may be the better option and thereby allow the local teachers of the faith to apply that general term to specifics and for the faithful to apply some common sense in consultation with their pastors and confessors.

      Today there are some who like to say pot is harmless, and is a light matter. I do not agree for the reasons stated in my article. Though I admit that it is a lesser matter than the use of other drugs such as heroine and cocaine. Nevertheless, I would surely want to teach the faithful, based on experience, that the Catechism’s use of the term “drugs” surely applies here, while some other things like caffeine do not.

  10. As a teacher in a Catholic high school in the 60’s up to the mid 90’s I saw a lot of pot use.For some it was a short term use experience but for many it continued into adulthood and affected their lives and their work ethic as well as their marriage and subsequent family life.
    Your article has done an excellent job of summing up the problems with marijuana.Opposition parties in my country are calling for its decriminalization and allow its use.One can only hope that they remain in opposition.

  11. My older brother became a casualty of both pot and alcohol. He was handsome, witty, talented, bright and charming. Then, in high school, he became hooked on drugs and drink. He stayed handsome and witty, but the other attributes fled him gradually. He got into AA and got “sober” for 11 years, which for him meant only smoking pot every day. He never found a real job, and ended his days as a ward of the state. He died at age 49–alone, on a couch, surrounded by rolling papers and liquor bottles. It was days before anyone found his body.

    I cannot say truthfully that pot was his downfall, as booze was at least as much to blame. But a mindset that says you can be sober if all you do is get stoned daily is a powerful tool of the Devil.

    One crucial distinction between alcohol and other drugs that the legalization crowd ignore is that–alcohol serves purposes other than intoxication. I can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and not even approach inebriation. If someone in favor of pot can truthfully say “I take a single puff, then throw the rest away–and oh, how this joint sets off the taste of the steak!”, I suppose I might see the analogy.

    1. I’ve also had family members get hooked, and so I fully sympathize.

      You are completely correct in your distinction between pot and alcohol. Moderate alcohol use has actually been linked to improved heart health, so not only is not destructive, it may even be advantageous. I would also add that those who bring alcohol into this discussion in order to argue for legalization may be doing themselves a disservice. The fact of the matter is that prohibition did reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, and led to a decline in alcohol-related deaths. In other words, it actually worked.

  12. Under # 4.) your statement that asks the question where are the anti smoking ZEALOTS? My thought exactly! WHERE ARE THEY? The folks who over the years have written costly legislation to change habits of the SMOKERS, location of places to go/stand to SMOKE. Restaurants that spent millions to accommodate legislation to PROTECT US against smokers, smoking and even second hand smoke?
    Where is Bloomberg or attorneys that have sued for millions so that states could….Fill in the blanks as to where the bucks went! That was all done with unmitigated ZEAL, over the top legal steps to assure we would not be medical burdens in the future of our MEDICAL CARE. I digress!!! I’m old 71, so I’ve observed much over the years myself, this push for the legalization of DOPE, is wrong! We need to learn to live in the real clear headed world!
    My last word is that I HAVE NEVER SMOKED EVEN ONE CIG MY ENTIRE LIFE. What’s the point of dragging poison into my lungs? Just a thought not a sermon!

  13. I used medical mj – for a bona fide medical purpose – starting in the middle of 2010. In late 2012 it became clear to me that I shouldn’t use it, at least not in the way I was. I quit outright in July of 2013.

    Two reasons that I find it problematic: (1) there isn’t a good point of moderation with it in the daily setting, like there is in having a glass or two of wine; if one starts, one usually gets pretty seriously intoxicated; (2) there isn’t a good point of moderation with it in the larger setting; if I have some on a given day, I want to do so again on subsequent days to the point that I will change other behaviors to facilitate getting high. It’s been nearly half a year since I last used, but I still have a strong desire to do so every day.

  14. Msgr Pope…I’m 67 yrs old,… I smoke pot. Sounds like the start of an AA meeting (or the first sentence in the confessional). Although I thoroughly enjoy a good glass of wine with a meal, it doesn’t compare to the enhancement that a hit or two brings to the occasion. It’s hard to beat a good steak dinner when the ‘munchies’ set in. As with many things in life, moderation still seems to be the key. Does it bring me closer to God.. probably not. Does it move me away from God.. never.

    1. Well I wonder Don what you might think of the growing testimony here and the observation of others that pot use alters the mind and affects judgement.

      I also wonder what your family members would say about you. We are not a judge in our own case and despite your testimony to the contrary, something tells me that your use of the stuff at 67 is a poor reflection on your judgment that mere moderation does not really reflect poorly on your thinking and prudential capacities. Bong hits do not pertain to a 67 year old. I would hope that 67 year old might have moved beyond such youthful folly. Hence I would be more presuming of addiction or at least compulsion for any 67 year old Christian who is doing hits at all. Just for the record I would also presume addiction if a 67 year old were routinely drinking to excess.

      1. So Don you say pot has not brought you closer to God but never moves you further away. It sounds like you are going nowhere. You are just “enhancing” yourself with marijuana so you can satisfy your appetite for food and not bothering to say grace before eating. You are a real progressive guy.

        1. Robert the life long Catholic… Your comment to me is incorrect and unkind. The only reason I commented on Msgr Pope’s blog was because I thought he was sincere when he said ” … and to inquire of your own experience with having either used marijuana, or observed others who do.” I offered my experience, I wasn’t expecting his smack down, but I do respect his authority and position. I will take his thoughts and pray about them. You, on the other hand do not have the authority or position to make such uninformed opinions about me, Please stop it.

  15. I agree with you Monsignor – pot steals your ambition. However pot should be studied and used to create morally licit medicine – especially for appetite stimulation in patients receiving chemotherapy. Properly the natural product would be modified to reduce the undesirable disorienting psychoactive effects in favor of anti-nausea effects. Cannabanoids have 2 receptors in the brain that appear to split these effects and drugs can be design to favor specific binding to the desired receptor.

    1. Fair enough, though I also hear medical officials often say that there are many other ways to do what you describe without smoking pot. I’m curious what other medically trained readers might say.

      1. I’m not advocating smoking pot, even for cancer patients I think the disorientation might be too a serious problem, especially for children. Rather I’m advocating isolating the active ingredients from pot and chemically modifying them to work as medicine. So just like cocaine is dangerous while novocaine is medically useful something similar could be done with pot.

        1. They did that; it’s called marinol (or something similar), and it makes people sick because the cannabinoid compounds naturally occurring in marijuana work with the THC to alter the effects experienced by the body. Pharmaceutical extraction is not the answer to everything, and it is a dangerous mentality to have insofar as the pharmaceutical mentality utilizes a reductionist view of not only the body but all of reality – things are not simply discrete bits of extended geometry to be manipulated by our scientific prowess. Moreover, the hylomorphic unity that is the body cannot be treated in such a materialistic way.

          I don’t understand why, when nature gives us something good in itself our first impulse as humans seems to be to isolate and refine it! At least these days. By the way: you do know that cocaine is not like marijuana, because cocaine is already a processed and refined form of the stimulant in coca leaves (which, when chewed or made into a tea on their own, are only a mild stimulant similar to coffee). Comparing marijuana to cocaine is not even close to making a good analogy since both drugs are not only very different classes, but they also represent different levels of refinement and concentration. Perhaps hash to cocaine would be more accurate from the latter perspective, but it would be even farther off from the former perspective. Let us not forget to consider the danger and addictiveness potential of both drugs, which is vastly different as well.

          It should also be noted that there are other ways of consuming marijuana besides smoking, and that accurate dosing methods exist where medical marijuana is legal, since the dispensaries – in wanting to provide a quality product – will tell you the percent of cannabinoids and concentration of THC in all sorts of their products.

          1. With all due respect Nature produces plenty of poisons as well. What do you think THC is? It’s an evolutionary adaptation by the marijuana plant to avoid herbivores by making animals that eat it torpid and therefore easy prey. The failure of marinol does not mean other related compounds cannot be created that are superior. It’s a trial and error process like most of science.
            The idea that “nature gives us something good in itself” is often false. Nature (or in context fallen nature) gives us raw materials only. It’s our labor and intellect that converts and refines those materials to useful products. Marijuana contains numerous related chemicals that may, if properly modified have some use, just like most natural products have to be altered in some manner.

  16. Msgr Pope,

    As a libertarian (voluntaryist) myself, I’m curious as to how the libertarian in you would want this issue addressed. I completely agree that the overall effects of drugs, such as marijuana, are negative. Does the pragmatist in you wish the government to use force to protect people from themselves? Or does the libertarian in you fully accept the non-aggression principle and reject the use of force as a means to an end.

    1. I think the libertarian part of me would work more on the punitive side of the question. First why jail or arrest mere users? I don’t know if we need to go so far as to “legalize” it. I might be more comfortable with insisting like we do with drunk drivers, or even just poor drivers, that users after a certain number of times getting caught buying, using or possessing, one might be required to attend meetings, pay fines, or seek treatment and education. Or perhaps we might limit punitive measures only to those caught selling the stuff. I haven’t thought the whole thing through and am not enough of a lawyer to know the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing.

      1. Msgr, I have to disagree with you.
        I have seen way more damage with alcohol than pot. If people want to smoke it, let them , decriminalize it, legalize it. After a glass of wine, I am super relaxed, completely mellow, don’t want to move away from the couch but you know what : I don’t finish the bottle! harmless….same with weed.
        Coming from Mexico, I see the hypocrisy of the criminalization of drugs: obscene profits, violence etc….
        I honestly believe weed is illegal because it won’t profit to western governments like alcohol and tobacco ( in an open market , production will highly come from the southern hemisphere). Let’s not fall into the hysteria of the dangers of weed.
        Nobody die from it. God made it.
        Btw, I do not use it but as a libetarian ( surprised by your stands!) I find it “illogical” to make it illegal when tobacco and alcohol are legal.
        God bless , I love your blog.

        1. Did you see my disclaimers regarding your objections? What do you think of them? For example wine makes one feel mellow, but the effect wears off. But my observation with pot users is that the effects to their brain and motivation are semi-permanent leading to a lethargic “manana” attitude.

          1. Msgr. Pope,

            You are committing the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. What you observe subsequently in people after smoking pot is not necessarily the consequence of smoking pot.

            There are several reasons for this:

            First: Whatever form of activity one is habituated to, that is the axis along which disturbances in their substance will ripple along. For example: a group of friars in formation and a group of college students looking to party go to a bar. Clearly, the effects of the alcohol (while physiologically the same) will affect them differently insofar as their substances are disposed differently towards various forms of habitual actions (which surface more readily under the inhibition loosening effect of alcohol).

            Second: The morality of an action is always determined according to a number of considerations: intention, act, end, means, manner. The act itself is merely the efficient cause which educes from potency to act. However, *what* it is that is being actualized depends heavily on the intention (which specifies the Form of the act), the end attained (by which the act is judged according to the closeness between end and intention), the means (which determine the ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ of the action in addition to the underlying moral goodness of badness), and the manner (which further qualifies the means insofar as the means are undertaken prudently).

            Therefore, if you focus only on the act and the (observed) ends, you are missing 3/5 of the picture.

            Third: People lack rational mastery over their substance. Granted, this is one of the effects of the fall – our original parents lost the gifts of God which kept them free from concupiscence. However, those graces are restored to us in Baptism and Confession. Now, we still have to practice asceticism and good philosophy in order to tame our naturally passionate bodies and habituate impassibility; however, this is MERELY the human response to the actual grace of the sacraments, which occasions the opportunity to merit an increase in grace and the infusion of habitual grace (i.e. the virtues).

            Lest one suppose such practice is impossible in this day and age, forget not the radical form of divine adoption made available to apostolic Christianity at every Eucharist. So not only are our original gifts restored to us in Baptism, and every time we seek repentance in Confession, but our very being is transformed through substantial union with Christ and a share in his divine Sonship: the outer nature is wasting away, but internally we are renewed day by day.

            The body is, after all, dust. And so is marijuana. By the grace of God and His gratuitous gift of the spirit, our bodies are united to an intrinsic ordering principle which is itself above mere dust and sensitive nature.

            One cannot conclude that because a certain set of observed effects occur in a particular population that those effects are reducible entirely to the mechanical action of smoking pot.

            Clearly, I’m not saying everyone should smoke pot. But let’s be real, for all substances there will be sets of people who should and shouldn’t use them – some as a matter of real health, others as a matter of prudence. But let us not turn matters of prudence into moralizing.

            Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to (legally) smoke and continue working on an exegesis of the problems surrounding Aristotle’s re-introduction to Western thought in the 13th Century – particularly the issues surrounding contemporary responses to Thomas Aquinas’ Patristic synthesis given the overwhelming Augustinian-Neoplatonism at the time (particularly among the Franciscan friars indebted to the Victorines Hugh and Richard through Alexander of Hales).

          2. Well I think you are engaged in a lot of wishful thinking. While there is such a thing as a post hoc propter hoc fallacy, it does not mean that noticing consistent consequences to certain behavior is this fallacy. From the comments here and discussions I have had with others, the use of pot has these very widely attested and observable effects. I am not “only observing the ends.” But consequences are important.

            And despite all your fancy jargon (gosh aren’t we all impressed), I think you’re just avoiding some rather obvious deleterious effects. If I were to use your jargon approach to the question I would say that you are focusing on efficient and material causality but neglecting formal and final causality.

            Getting stoned is a poor goal. If it were merely a harmless diversion, one might overlook it more. But it seems not to be harmless, and, despite what you say, it does have the lingering effects of harming motivation, and alertness in a semi-permanent way. If there is any value in “apatheia” dulling the mind with dope isn’t the way to get there. Don’t do drugs they dull your mind and won’t help you in your attempted synthesis.

            Your last paragraph is such a muddle that I wonder if you were high when you wrote this.

      2. Legalization takes away criminal penalties and gives government control to monitor any actions taken with the legalized item. Decriminalization would get rid of criminal penalties without giving the government control over any actions taken. Since governments are always looking for new taxes and items to control, legalization is surely what will occur. Since, taxation is theft, I favor decriminalization. Rather than the government enforcing penalties for non-violent actions, a voluntary society could enforce economic and social penalties as well as criminal penalties once the violent action has taken place (even drunk driving, which, in and of itself, is non-violent; though the action could most certainly produce a violent result, which would then be punishable).

        *I know this is probably very radical for anyone unfamiliar with libertarianism, but I encourage you to look into libertarianism for yourselves, especially the “non-aggression principle.”*

        1. Alex,I agree with you but you know that Big Brother is in the business of making $$$$$$$$$….like the cartel/mafia he wants his cut.

  17. Drugs are fine, as Philo notes, as long as you have placed your rationality above your substance, because the world is a tough place and drugs make it easier for those who know how to responsible and safely use them. The wise man will already have his life in order, therefore any indulgences will be used to increase cheer and community and will not go into harmful excess (on occasion Bacchanalian revelry is called for, so a little excess does not always offend prudential judgement).

    Unfortunately, most education today is focuses so exclusively on instrumental reason and utilitarian values that most people don’t even realize they have a substance which can be rationally transcended.

    Recall, the meaning of the word “drug” in Greek has a double edge which carried over into English – drugs can heal as easily as they can harm, and the difference often lies in the measure or ratio, not in the substance itself.

    #neoplatonism #churchfathers #moderndesert

    1. and please don’t judge me on my typos. I haven’t had my drugs (coffee) this morning, yet. lol.

      1. Were you in that movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Rain Man?

  18. I’m 63. I’ve never smoked pot, never wanted to. I’ve been around a lot of people who did, but when I saw how they acted, I decided I didn’t want to be like that at all.

  19. I am 57 years old. I started smoking pot when I was 17 and by the grace of God, stopped smoking it when I was 51. I smoked pot pretty much every day of my life for that period. My husband and I both did. We did not smoke on the job and both had and have good jobs that require the use of our brains. During my younger years I attended school at night while working full time and obtained an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement, while high. I started on my bachelors, but gave up after my junior year realizing I could never arrest anyone for smoking dope. My goal had been to become a police officer.
    Smoking pot did not affect my intelligence. It did affect my drive and my memory. What it mostly did was allow an escape from wounds in my heart and my life. One does not do a lot of reflection when they are high. Pot makes even the most banal sitcom appear hilariously funny. The senses are heightened and one can feel really good about anything. For a while. In my case, I could only hide my pain from myself for so long. Panic attacks were a part of my life and eventually smoking pot would set them off. Then, one could take Valium before smoking pot to eliminate that. Pretty soon medicating myself was the way to deal with my life. Smoking dope for 34 years did nothing for me except cost me a lot of money and allowed me to remain in a life that on the surface appeared to be good, but in the depths, was killing me. Life was a hedonistic wasteland.
    When my husband decided to leave me for someone else after 30 years together, pot and valium was what I headed for immediately after my work day ended. Numb the mind and pray the emotions follow. It doesn’t. I often think that if I had never started smoking dope, I may have actually accomplished something. It is too late to know. I do know that the Lord gave me some incredible gifts that I squandered for almost all of my life. I also never knew the Lord until He came to me in 2007. Six months after I knew He existed I went to a healing Mass and asked the Lord to deliver me from my pot addiction. It was October 4, 2007. I left that Mass and my pot addition was gone. Do not think pot is not addicting. It isn’t in a physical sense beyond sleeplessness when you quit, but it is in an emotional sense. If your life is going nowhere, it is your best friend.
    I feel nothing but sadness for all those who will now even try pot because where it is legal. I feel sorry for my ex-husband, who is still hiding from himself in a pipe.

  20. Thanks you, Msgr., for your insightful article. It is truly spot-on. I smoked marijuana in college just a few times and found it left me very lethargic and with a kind of “what does it matter” attitude about life and anything important. Fortunately, God gave me the grace to see that this lackadaisical attitude after smoking pot was not the path to a healthy life – fun maybe, yes, but not healthy! So, I quit and haven’t touched it since in almost 40 years. After 9 kids and a 36-year marriage and my Catholic faith, I’m grateful not to be hooked on some drug!

    However, can’t say the same for my twin brother who never quit. Two divorces, three marriages, destroyed family life, can’t hold a job, blames everybody else for his problems, hates organized (read: Catholic) religion, his two kids who were raised to be extremely materialistic and selfish, and never gives to charity is what you end up with!

  21. If I could motion for all mind altering drugs to be removed from the public square I certainly would. My concern stems from a much heavier issue than a few kid’s grasping to reach an appropriate understanding of freedom. If we want to grasp the full reality of destroying a mind and person, examine the prescribing of mind altering drugs to the nations youth in the name of conformity. As both a former user of THC as well as a youth given Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta, to correct behavioral issues clearly caused by a poor family environment. I can attest to the damage done to my personality was the latter. We feed our children drugs to ‘correct’ them, tell them they wont be good enough without the drugs to succeed, this just seems a little contradictory to the expect them to not seek drugs further in life. Marijuana is in my mind a way to cover up decades of the true crisis that is the family.
    Thank you always for your words Monseigneur.

  22. Msgr Pope … I guess I deserved that ‘smack to the back of the head’ but you are still my favorite blogging priest.

  23. Peace my fellow Catholics. Just wanted to share an important PSA: CANNABIS OIL [The ESSENTIAL OIL extracted from the cannabis plant using a solvent such as 91% isopropyl alcohol or 190 proof Everclear] cures internal cancers within 3 months, and skin cancers in weeks–on record–as well as successfully treats a host of other ailments. This is not a tincture! Please YouTube Rick Simpson’s video “Run from the Cure.” For medical/scientific analysis, please search: Dr. Robert Melamede [U. of Colorado-Colorado Springs]; Dr. Manuel Guzman [Complutense U. of Madrid]; Dr. Sean McAllister [CA Pacific Medical Research Institute]; Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti [U. of South Carolina]; Dr. Dennis Hill [MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston]. Also, YouTube Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN Special called “Weed.” In it, he documented a 5-year old girl [Charolotte Figi] successfully treating her Dravet syndrome [severe epileptic seizures] with CANNABIS OIL which is then diluted with olive oil. Nobody is selling anything. With a good strain of cannabis [especially one with a high CBD to THC ratio], you can make your own CANNABIS OIL MEDICINE and cure yourself and your loved ones.

    1. if you’re using isopropyl to extract the THC, it had better be a tincture. Never ingest any alcohol except ethyl (grain/ethanol) alcohol.

      1. Nope, this is NOT A TINCTURE–all the alcohol is BURNED OFF. Nobody is ingesting any alcohol! Moreover, this is PURER than a tincture, and thus more medicinal. Check out the basic method of how to make it from people who have cured and are curing themselves with this CANNABIS OIL MEDICINE: Rick Simpson prefers naphtha; Pete O’Toole has used isopropyl alcohol; Mykayla Comstock’s [7-year old cancer patient] parents choose to use 190 proof Everclear for her MEDICINE. If folks are concerned about using any type of alcohol [even a food-grain type] then check out Shona Banda’s method. To treat her Crohn’s disease, she extracts the oil from the dried/smokable cannabis using a vaporizer. Also, I believe the Stanley brothers use an alternative method to extract the ESSENTIAL OIL for Charlotte Figi’s MEDICINE. Also, don’t forget to check out the SCIENCE which supports the testimonial evidence. There is plenty of information on how CANNABINOIDS [both endogenous and external] act within our ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM to help regulate our bodies and fight off ailment.

        1. Hey, ab, I am not sure Chasing is having a real conversation with you, and at this point I think you are both off into esoterica. In fact I think both of you may be prone to the after-effects of pnuemonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis Beware! And consider yourselves warned.

          1. I thought I was on Monsignor Pope’s blog but it’s starting to read more like High Times. Toto I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.

  24. There is another very serious reason why pot cannot be compared to alcohol. In small doses, alcohol has no negative consequences. Indeed, red wine, beer, etc. have been documented to have numerous health benefits – in moderation. Marijuana indeed, may have some health benefits in moderation; BUT, it is also carries significant health RISKS in moderation. Marijuana has been found to be much more risky in terms of cancer development than even tobacco. Instead of comparing marijuana to alcohol, it should be compared to tobacco – except that it has THC and some other lovely carcinogens. In addition, over 30% of schizophrenics developed their first psychotic break using marijuana – it takes only one time – many journal articles across nations document this. Personally, I have nothing to lose with the legalization of marijuana. I am a psychologist – it just means much more business for me. I always tell people, “go ahead and use that stuff if you think it is ok. Here is my fee when you need me later.” I’m making a point when I say that, of course. You hear some people say, “well, it hasn’t caused me any problems?” My answers are 1) how do YOU know that, 2) it doesn’t mean that it won’t cause you any problems later, and 3) one person is a statistical exception (the same old, “MY grandfather smoked cigarettes until he was 95” argument). I find it humorously ironic that many of the same liberals who want to legalize marijuana don’t even consider the environmental impact of more carbon emissions and second hand smoke as well.

  25. The minor consequences of marijuana use on users are far outweighed by the negative effects on society caused by organized crimes involvement in its illegal trade and the police state powers used to try and stop it. Marijuana is closer to alcohol than the truly awful drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth.

    1. I wouldn’t call what I describe minor. Neither would I describe the consequences narrated by others here as minor. The Police state issues are significant, but please don’t call minor what is not minor.

  26. I’ll offer a somewhat younger perspective. I’m 28 and I volunteer in Catholic youth ministry in the Seattle area. I completely agree with the observation that pot makes people act like brain dead zombies. I can’t see any good that has come from legalizing pot in my state (Washington). Legalization has led high school kids, even those from Catholic families, to the default opinion that pot use is ultimately a private matter, and its use is exempt from criticism. These kids often believe pot is neither harmful to individuals nor society — how could it be all that harmful if it is legal?

    When this issue comes up in youth ministry, we are faced with trying to teach kids that though pot is now legal in our state, it is destructive. Sometimes we try to tap into the rebelliousness of high school kids by offering them a chance to resist the mainstream and NOT choose the same stupid things as their peers.

  27. Though the move towards legalization will no doubt lead us back through a phase similar to that of the late 1960s when the illegal use of MJ was most popular (yet the laws were not enforced strictly), that is not the appropriate point of comparison if we are talking about the likely scenario after full legalization has stabilized.

    I would argue that the better point would be to look at whether MJ caused the ills ascribed to it before it was made illegal, and in that regard, history indicates it did not. In particular, I refer to the statements made at the May 4, 1937 Congressional hearing in advance of the prohibition of all forms of cannabis made by Dr. William C. Woodward, legislative counsel of the American Medical Association. (Easily found with a web search so you can choose a source you trust.) Not only did the AMA oppose making cannabis illegal, but went officially on the record that there was no evidence presented for the claims. Instead, they went on the record that the push for illegalization appeared to be racial and political in nature rather than based on public health concerns.

    It is also no secret that DuPont pushed to make cannabis illegal so as to broaden the market for their newly created nylon product as a replacement for hemp rope, and the pharmaceutical industry also had an interest in locking out people from growing their own medicines should processes be established for standardized dosing.

    We need to return regulation to state control (or to how it was before the problems started post-prohibition), and end the de facto federal protection of 20-30% of the profit stream of the drug cartels…

    1. The drug cartels are going to take over the legal trade in Marijuana and they will not stop there. If you doubt that, look at legalized gambling. Same kind of issue, same kind of people. Same victims. We will be trying to undue this damage in 10 years or less.

  28. I should have said ‘relatively minor’ since I was thinking of marijuana in comparison to harder drugs like meth, which should, without a doubt, be banned.

  29. I totally agree, Monsignor. My 58-year-old husband has smoked pot off and on since he was a teen. It has wreaked havoc with our marriage and in my opinion with his mental health. Memory loss, lethargy, and lack of ambition to do anything worthwhile all seem to be part of the package. In his drug-seeking behavior, my husband has done some pretty dishonorable things. I have had to hide the car keys from him so he won’t get behind the wheel when he’s high. And I absolutely can attest to the lingering effects of long-term use. He hasn’t held a steady job in over 10 years. Whenever anything stressful happens, he just shuts down and goes to sleep. Worst of all, he has no concern for providing for the future. “Tune in, turn on, drop out” fits him to a T. This is not living, it’s existing.
    So, do I want to see marijuana legalized? Absolutely not! The last thing we need is to make it easier for people to indulge their addictions. And I do believe it is strongly addictive, at least psychologically. In my experience, this is not a substance that we should be making more easily available. Let’s think about the children who would be exposed to this lifestyle and what kind of example we would be setting.

  30. Excellent article, Father, and I thank you. I’m the same age as you as well, but my experience as an adolescent was completely different, as I was one of those ‘burnouts’ –today they’re called stoners, etc. But I quit smoking dope at the end of my junior year in high school because I found it made me anti-social. It is also very common to describe pot as making one paranoid. And this I think is one of the major differences between pot and alcohol.

    Alcohol is a social drug. In moderation, it actually enhances social interaction; it lowers inhibitions, and in a sense, it frees us to be more ourselves, where our fears and neuroses might otherwise interfere. Now this cannot be proven, can it? But I do think it fits with common experience. One could argue that society –and our Lord– allows and even sanctions alcohol for these very reasons.

    But the exact opposite applies to marijuana –it makes you less yourself; it increases inhibitions and makes you paranoid; pot is anti-social.

    What’s more is that the point of smoking dope is to get high, or stoned; getting just a little ‘buzzed’ is like a half-measure, or a disappointment. The point of drinking alcohol in any social setting however, is to enhance that sociability. Getting outright drunk is almost always shameful behavior and stigmatized.

    This was my emphatic experience, and everything you say here just validates it and complements it all the more. Thank you.

  31. One of the big lies about this so-called legalization is that the commercially available pot is incredibly potent. It’s nothing like the mild stuff most people were exposed to in the seventies. One hit and you’re effectively incapacitated.

  32. I’ve been in law enforcement for over 30 years, so I have some insight. First off the good Msgr. is spot on in this as in all of his articles! I keep hearing people say this, but would someone tell me just what state puts marijuana users in jail? It is absolutely false to say they are put in jail. A user gets a slap on the hand and fined. Even repeat users are not jailed. The courts do not have the time and jail space to mess around with this! So to say they are thrown in jail is “pro-dope” propaganda! The only people going to jail are the growers, dealers, shippers, etc… I would also like to tell the 67 year old dope person that his financing the drug business by buying and using dope has contributed to the deaths of people. You are not an innocent user! You are part of the drug culture. You will have to answer to God on judgement day for your part in this operation. Not to mention that the Lord, God Himself told us to render unto Ceasar what is Ceasers. Meaning we are to obey all just laws. So you have much to Confess in Confession!.One last point, it is very difficult to tell when someone is still impaired on marijuana. A test only shows previous use and it can be quatified, but you can not get a good time frame on the use. So how are we to determine when the pilot of plane is still under the influence of marijuana? How about the bus driver of your kids? Or the subway operators? You can’t tell for sure. We seem to be living in a day and age when people think “If only we could do this, or if only this was different then all will be well. Wake up people! Only in Heaven will we reach that utopia. Down here we are in a battle of good verses evil. As John Paul II said the west does not yet realize that this battle is happening. Wake up, look around and see all the areas that evil is trying take over and trying to literally destroy us. We are the targets. He wants to get us to destroy us. And he is being very successful.

    1. I respectfully disagree with most of your points, Monsignor. As a sixty-year old, retired federal law enforcement officer, my experiences and subsequent opinions concerning marijuana and its usage, especially as compared to alcohol, are very different.

      First, the statements concerning pot use and apathy, laziness, lethargy, etc. are all true based on my experience. People who abuse pot tend to be under-achievers and lack ambition to a large degree. I think it is dangerous for teenagers to use marijuana. There have not been enough studies to see if a developing brain and mental functions could be hurt by marijuana.

      However, lets first look at a few universally accepted facts concerning marijuana (pot):

      1) Pot is the weakest drug as compared to alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, all opiates, amphetamines, LSD, any other hallucinates, khat, and, yes, even caffeine. Pot is the only drug that has no established toxicity level – only 7-8 shots of alcohol consumed rapidly will kill you and we all know about the overdoses from all the other legal and illicit drugs mentioned. You could sit and smoke as much marijuana as physical possible and never die of a pot overdose (not true of tobacco – a man will die of nicotine poisoning). This information is from the AMA and medical authorities

      2) Additive potential – Comparing the above mentioned drugs, guess which substance was found to have the lowest additive properties as reported by researchers based on laboratory rat studies. Pot is the least additive drug around – doctors have always known and stated pot has no physical dependence unlike alcohol, meth, cocaine, etc. (personally there is no way I could go without coffee).

      Psychological addition is certainly possible with pot as with any drug, but as reported by the medical community, that can be much based on the person’s mental state previous to usage as the drug itself. There have been studies which have researched pot users over years, even heavy users, and the serious mental problems have not been recognized.

      You mentioned anecdotal information as a basis for your opinions and I agree. In my professional and personal experience of sixty plus years, I have seen alcohol destroy families, including my own parents’ family. In my federal law enforcement years, I saw crack, meth, and heroin devastate entire communities in Miami. Yet I can honestly say I never saw marijuana “destroy” a person. I’ve known potheads who were wastes but, if they didn’t have pot, they would had found another substance.

      The bottom line is marijuana is the most innocuous drug available. Yet you don’t really seem to have a problem with the devastation that legal enforcement of marijuana has done to family and communities. You mention that maybe it’s “reasonable to argue that incarcerating people with drug problems is not a wise approach”. DO you have any idea how many people are in prison in this country for simply possessing marijuana? Check yahoo or google it and see how many thousands of Americans are behind bars.

      Monsignor, I believe you a pastor of a primarily African-American parish. Maybe you should check with your congregation and see how they feel about marijuana laws since young black males have been singled out as being arrested the most for simple marijuana possession of all ethnic groups. The most harmless drug available and we’re arresting and incarcerating (with permanent arrest records) thousands of young black men and women. I think that is pathetic and should be the real issue discussed.

      1. I am going to quote you:

        First, the statements concerning pot use and apathy, laziness, lethargy, etc. are all true based on my experience. People who abuse pot tend to be under-achievers and lack ambition to a large degree. I think it is dangerous for teenagers to use marijuana. There have not been enough studies to see if a developing brain and mental functions could be hurt by marijuana.

        Then why add it to the arsenal of self-destruction? The rest of your points ring hollow in the light of your own words. To say there are worse things does not lead to the conclusion that lesser things are good. They are not. That you could kill me by blowing my head off does not make death by thousand cuts a good thing.

        Thanks for your service as an officer of the law. But I am afraid that a steady routine of having to take out society’s “trash” has left you insensitive to the smell of garbage. I am reminded of some priest who, after hearing serious mortal sins, make light of venial sin and even tell the faithful not to bother them with pious confession. But to say that mortal sin is more serious does not mean venial sin is not sin.

        I also wonder if you read my whole article. I do not argue for heavy legal penalty. Please re-read my article and avoid baseless accusations about my racial sensitivities.

        I eliminated your quote from Chesterton since he was not speaking of Mary Jane and it is not right to quote him out of context.

      2. Kurt, you are giving false information. You either are a user or you were never really involved in enforcement. You will not got to prison for personal use. You will go to prison for having 5 pounds or more of it. Who you are describing are people who are trafficking in marijuana.

        1. LE Person, If you were really a law enforcement officer then you must familiar with the federal data bases such as the FBI’s LEO and Uniform Crime Reports and the Department of Justice/DEA’s yearly reports. Just check the facts as they report: in the year 2012, there was an arrest for marijuana every 42 seconds in this country. Of the 1.8 million people arrested, 47.4% were for marijuana possession.

          Your statement that, you don’t go to prison unless you have 5 pounds or more of it and that’s trafficking, is moronic. First, you have a permanent arrest record (try getting a job) and become ineligible for most local, state or federal programs involving housing, assistance, etc., Second, any subsequent violation (as you should know) and whether it’s marijuana related or not, triggers increasing penalties including incarnation. Third, trafficking marijuana is simply growing or selling or transporting marijuana which, based on your comments, makes all of them subject to incarnation. Tell me, honestly, how many people have you seen in your 30(?) years of LE destroyed by marijuana as compared to all other legal or illegal drugs.

  33. At age 80, I may be the oldest commenter on this thread.
    Here are a few observations, and a conclusion.
    1) I drank my first beer at a party near the time of high school graduation. Tried cigarettes a couple of times about age 20, but couldn’t find any flavor. A few years later, I smoked a few cigars when given by acquaintances. My bride wouldn’t permit smoking in the house, a/c odors linger after the experience has expired.
    2) During my 1st year of college (1951), a classmate drove too fast, killing himself and a couple of passengers after drinking too much alcohol. During my college years I drank alcohol to the point of getting sick twice. I don’t enjoy the experience of emptying my stomach involuntarily, and the hangovers were the pits. In theory, alcohol was not supposed to be purchased by those under age 21. For all practical purposes, this prohibition is unenforceable in cities in the US. It may be enforceable in Amish communities.
    3) After going on a Marriage Encounter, in our 21st year of marriage in 1975, we started socializing more with an Encounter Group. We quit drinking hard liquor on a regular basis, probably saving our livers, and switched to an occasional glass of wine, or a wine cooler.
    Messing with mind-altering drugs would be a great (sarcasm intended) way of destroying a marriage.

    3) In the 1930s, composer Cole Porter wrote the lyric “I get no kick from cocaine” in his hit “I get a Kick out of You.” While this lyric worked while the play was on Broadway, for music recordings he changed the wording of that line to “I get no kick from champagne.” Apparently cocaine was readily available in the entertainment industry at the time, despite Federal prohibitions.
    4) A major problem with marijuana as currently sold (no personal experience) is that the chemical strength of the leaves available varies widely. The strongest sample available can be lethal to a first time user.
    5) Marijuana is supposed to be among the top four crops in money value in several counties in northern California near Cape Mendocino.
    6) A few years ago, a college senior who was a First Round draft choice in the NBA (Len Bias – University of Maryland, I believe) died inadvertently of a drug overdose at a party held within 24 hours of the draft to celebrate his being a first round pick.
    Don’t know what drug killed him, but he apparently was a first time user.
    7) We just lost a neighbor in her 70s to death from pneumonia. She had been a cigarette smoker for more than 20 years before developing chronic illnesses, emphysema, I believe. When she caught the cold that turned into pneumonia, her heart and lungs were too weak to fight off the infection.
    8) Within the US Federal government, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – familiarly called BATF – has been a major embarrassment in the last twenty years. They have lured a private citizen into breaking the law on firearms, then murdered his wife (Ruby Ridge). They followed up a few years later by setting a siege to an offbeat religious cult in Waco Texas, causing the fiery death of several hundred. The failure of anyone to investigate and punish (by demoting or firing) the government employees responsible for these two tragedies inspired a private citizen, a US Army veteran, to set off a car-bomb next to a Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing a large number of people. In recent years, the BATF exported something more than one thousand semiautomatic weapons to Mexico, under the cover story that they were trying to expose gang leaders in the narcotics trade in Mexico. The BATF lost track of these weapons. This operation was code-named “Fast and Furious”.
    My conclusion is that the US Federal Govt is chronically unable to prohibit things that a wide number of private citizens want to use. It would be better to leave the regulation and taxation of substances used for mind-altering to the states. And maybe one or more of the states could determine what level of the active ingredients in marijuana to tax as though it was beer (i.e. 4% alcohol), ale (7% alcohol), wine (14% to 16% alcohol) or whiskey (43% alcohol at 86 proof, 50% alcohol at 100 proof). Allowing the states to experiment with regulation and taxation would be preferable to trying to prohibit something despite an inability to enforce the prohibition. Enacting a law that cannot be enforced causes disrespect for the laws generally.

    1. Hello,
      I agree on point (8). I always assumed that the reason why western governments would not legalize pot, cocaine and Heroine is that the production will come from the southern hemisphere versus tobacco or alcohol that we produce here.
      In an open market, we would not be able to compete with their production/ quality/ price.
      Plus , the ” war on drugs” is feeding / enriching our federal government with increase police presence/power , filling up our prisons etc…. I do prison ministry and about 90 % of the women are locked up due to drug traffic/ use.
      Msgr Pope, you have touched a touchy subject, I am amazed by all the comments.

      1. Cecelia, we have an open market on marijuana, cocaine and heroine. It is just illegal. Legalizing those drugs, including marijuana is not going to make the producers better citizens or less violent. They will just have more control and they will still try to kill competitors.

  34. Thank you for the very pertinent observations of the effects of pot ; diffrence from alcohol could be that the latter is sort of biblical whereas , pot use would lead one to break the first ( as well as the second ) commandment , to love God , with all our heart , mind and strenghth , which is needed, to be a good spiritual warrior,to fulfill the second commandment .

    Helping children to be able to see that the pain they experience is felt by The Lord, and thus asking for mercy for the one who is the cause of such pain to the child and to The Lord , could be a powerful armour , in helping them to be shielded from the anger /hatreds /boredom , from painful experiences of life , where in they search for remedies in the wrong places .

    Instead , they can use such occasions, asking for the holy angels , to come and bring God’s love , into oneself and the other , shattering the pain of every experience/ memory , in the power of the Risen Lord .. , into a transforming experience of love and mercy ..being busy doing so , on behalf of all in one’ s life , filling it with the angelic presence , and the Holy Spirit love, to know that there are no moments to be wasted …esp. since there are many who are calling on the fallen angels ..seeing the angels being busy carrying the pain of oneself and the other , into His Sacred Heart ..that takes in the pain , making it His own and allowing The Spirit to transform all , into merciful love , ready to be poured into hearts that are open , brought in by those rays from His Heart , carried out by the angels !

    With such a cloud of witnesses all around us , ready to do so much for us , since we are His children , do anyone need to be so pitifully wasteful of one’s life and role and purpose, that can make such tremendous things for many !

    Is our Pres. so unaware of the dignity and role of human life, to add up and add up the negating perception about our lives , one mostly shared by the enemy of our lives !

    Let us get busy , asking the holy angels , to come and do their job at so many levels , filling in the voids of lack of light and truth !
    Mary, Queen of angels and of Peace , pray for us , take over lives and of those in authority over us, to bring love and light !

  35. Cartels, street gangs, disproportionately racial punishment, overwhelming our prison systems (see rate of incarceration USA vs World), police corruption… the war on drugs is an absolute disaster.

    We should be discussing treating drugs as a medicinal problem rather than a criminal problem. The problems you cite hear are problems stemming from abuse and addiction, not something that mandatory minimums and prison terms will ever solve.

    How many millions have smoked pot a few times and quit “been there done that”? Most people want it legalized because it’s not that big of a deal and the drug war places exorbitant costs on society that could be better served elsewhere. There is also the unquestionable medicinal benefits linked to cannabis. As a non-smoker I can say that I would start taking cannabis before taking BigPharma pain killers that are FAR MORE highly addictive than cannabis ever has been.

    So let’s focus on this as a medical issue and take it out of our courts of law. The consequences of our failed war on drugs are innumerable and far worse than allowing people the freedom to smoke. Lastly, we have to look at industrial hemp, which cannot be smoked, and is unnecessarily banned.

    1. I don’t think you read my article. Do you have any other arguments that hating “the man” and the latest boogie man “Big Pharma”

      Medicine? That has nothing to do with Colorado’s legalization. You know that’s just a holding place for more mainstreaming of pot. I am not deceived by the “medical” arguments. The deeper questions are related to the wider use of this lethargic drug in our culture. I am not sure if law is the answer, but we’d better think twice before welcoming this depressive drug into the mainstream. Just what we need, more stoned americans

  36. I think it’s right to compare marijuana to alchohol, but in the legal system it is classed, I think, with hard drugs like meth and heroin that really destroy lives. I’ve seen what you’re talking about. I’ve heard it described as “permahigh”. They’re stuck with the negative aspects like slower cognition but don’t have the elation or good humor. I’ve used the reefer a handful of times in my wandering years with neohippies in the first decade of the new century. To me it seemed to slow down my senses and prevented rapid cognition so that sensory data streaming into my mind lingered and seemed richer. I never enjoyed a Milky Way so much. Plucking a single string on my guitar sounded incredibly beautiful. A lot of the permahigh types are multiple daily users. There’s a lot of variation depending on the individual and the quality of the particular plant. Obviously it can be abused. I think it’s fine for legitimate medical purposes and there are some ridiculous aspects to the law as is. There’s no reason farmers shouldn’t be allowed to grow hemp, for example, but that’s illegal even though it cant be used to get high. I don’t care much if it stays illegal or if it is legalized. I don’t use it anymore and I haven’t noticed any lasting effects in me. In orientation for a past job a speaker told us that it can alter the genes of a heavy user’s children in the next generation. On the whole it probably isn’t a step forward but I don’t think in itself it’s that big of a deal.

  37. Msgr I agree with Max and feel like you skirted his response. Marijuana needs to be legalized in all 50 states because the harm caused by the “war on drugs” far outdoes the potheads. Just because something is immoral does not mean it should be illegal when the common good is better served by its legality. There are many people in state and federal prison serving life sentences bc of the non violent acts of possessing and selling marijuana. None of the behaviors you stated are anything that resembles violence or aggression that is caused by its use.
    Legalize it and stop the madness and destruction it’s prohibition causes.

  38. I suspect that what is attractive to those who preach tolerance of pot, but not of other substances, is the lack of (or minimal degree of) physical addiction.
    Alcohol, in excess, can lead to violence in many forms. There’s the overt physical violence of the person who drinks then seeks a fight. Then, there’s overt emotional violence such as screaming abuse. Then there is the covert, or subtle, emotional violence expressed by the metaphor of “the smile in the face and the knife in the back” which tends to be negated by its proponents. However, as the disease of alcoholism progresses all this violent reaction to abuse becomes dysfunctional, as in the wino on the park bench muttering about the tough guy he thought he was or thinks he may be again. Alcoholics may be controlled because they have no controlled again but, the awakening of awareness of past abuses which they have suffered (real or imagined) makes them volatile and unpredictable. Then the need to deal with the physical reaction to withdrawal feeds the craving for more comfortable feelings.
    Opiates don’t tend to inspire violence but, like alcohol, have a physical addiction. Both have blatant withdrawal symptoms as a body which has adapted to being suppressed begins to over act when not being suppressed by its substance. This leads to progressive crime and injury to society as it progresses.
    Stimulants are unpredictable from the beginning and lead to violence from that beginning.
    Pot, hash or whatever form its used in – is not physically addictive to a significant degree. Abstinence can inspire an emotional, mental and/or spiritual craving that leads to some misdeeds but; the blatant demands of the body do not scream out for more and do not lead to rapidly progressive destructive criminal behaviour. Some hurtful things but, not so extreme that they spin out of control.
    So, if some one – or some group – wants to control a populace by making that populace dysfunctional then; encourage pot and deride criticism of its negative effects because these effects are not as “bad” as other substances and can be handled with firmness. The deprived pot user eventually becomes frantic then, zones out when finally given the substance. However, the frantic behaviour can be more easily dealt with because there’s no physical – in the face – reaction.
    There is a lack of extreme misbehaviour leaving only neglect of things like concern for widows and orphans in distress. James 1:27

    1. You made an excellent point.
      Habitual pot smokers can be easily manipulated. Think about the political aspects of this. I suspect that pot smokers will vote for whoever supports legalization, no matter what the candidates qualifications or policy positions are. Politicians could lie to the public about important issues and those who use drugs on a regular basis, well, they just wouldn’t care, and that would give the politicians license to misbehave.

  39. I think there are three criteria that should be used to look at drugs, based on christian belief.
    1. Is the drug addictive? Anything that takes away our freedom – as we were made by God — is wrong. We are to be free children of god, not slaves of sin.
    2. Does the drug damage our health? We are told by the 5th commandment to not do things that needlessly endanger our own health.
    3. Does it make one drunk? drunkenness is a sin, possibly even a mortal sin, because it weakens the faculties of the mind and will that help one to maintain virtue and avoid temptation. (I wonder, for example how many aborted children were conceived in drunkenness?)

    If these criteria are applied to various drugs, you can see more clearly where the issues lie. I’d like to see a drug prevention program that discussed things more in these terms than the DARE program, which was used in our Catholic school when my kids went there. DARE doesn’t work, but a clear and patient application of the Truth should.

  40. Thank you for your articles – I read them everyday. From a person who was stoned from 1965 – 1970, drinking wine, beer, whiskey went hand in hand with smoking a joint, taking speed, downing lsd. So the issue isn’t so much which drug is more destructive alcohol or marijuana, it’s what happens when you do both at the same time which is the common thing to do. And I would also say that you cannot smoke a joint without the intent to get high, and then next week you need to smoke 2 or stronger stuff and then when you come down it’s not so pleasant any more. I maintain that you can drink a beer without the intent of getting high, smoking a joint is not the same thing as drinking a glass of wine or having an ice cold beer on a hot day. As your article on deception says do not be deceived – I say, laws aren’t their just to punish the evil doers, but their real purpose is to prevent people from doing evil things and maybe actually help us get to heaven.

  41. In the final analysis I think we can all agree increased marijuana use made it a lot easier to move womens rights, birth control, abortion issue and homosexual rights into mainstream society so I guess it’s had some positive effects.

  42. With the carcinogen levels in government-study pot, they need to get all the anti-smoking laws off the books. And second hand smokes stinks, but what about contact highs? Is that fair to the other patrons/guests? Isn’t that why they made all the no-smoking laws? Because others didn’t want to be exposed? I sure don’t want a contact high. The hypocrisy surrounding the pot zealots is what turns me off to the whole idea of legalizing/decriminalizing. And even if the states legalize it, no one has mentioned that YOU STILL HAVE TO PASS A DRUG TEST FOR A JOB!! Several companies in WA state that had previously only required it the case of accidents/injuries started drug testing before hiring after the initiative passed. I have yet to see a highly motivated, interesting, engaging pot smoker, and we just increased our “unemployment” as people don’t get jobs.

  43. I think the fact that you have never tried pot just shows you shouldn’t pass judgement. Unless you try it- you have no idea what it’s like. Your observations are at most incorrect. I have smoked up on occasion and your descriptions of lethargy, laziness, and loosing control are nothing I experienced. I in fact, was fine- In fact, was more in control then when drinking alcohol. I think the people you describe that just stay home and smoke up all day are a reflection of a person’s character rather then the drug itself. If you choose to be apathetic all day not work that’s a reflection of you- not pot. There is nothing addictive, if you choose to smoke up all day- that’s your choice, there is no craving.

    In your reference to alcohol being around forever dating back to the bible. Weed is exactly the same. In hinduism Shiva used to drink Bhung, a drink made from cannabis. And so did his followers. So what’s the problem?

    Lastly, I am Hindu- and I respect my religion- and don’t feel the need to make other people have the same values as me. The same should go for you. Gay marriage – if you don’t like it you don’t have to participate, but you don’t deserve the right to take that away from another person. Same with abortion, you don’t have to agree but you don’t deserve the right to take that decision away from someone else. Everyone has the right to choose what decisions they want to make and the people they want to be. If people want to smoke up all day, that’s fine- just don’t do it and don’t pass judgement.

    1. As a person who has used pot self destructively; as I have used and abused any other mind altering substance because it’s my nature to do so; I feel somewhat qualified to speak out making it readily available to anyone and everyone.
      But, what about the person who’s never tried a THC containing substance, such as pot or hash? Well, I’ve never jumped off a cliff that’s over a drop of a hundred feet or more. The brief feeling of weightlessness may well be delightful however, having heard of the consequences of those who have taken that jump (or who have fallen as a result of carelessness of playing a dangerous game near it) I feel qualified to speak against such actions.

      1. Not sure exactly what you’re referring to here but, I did make at least one error and an overgeneralization which contributes.
        In my reply.on January 29 at 12:40 PM the statement, “…I feel somewhat qualified to speak out making it readily available…” I left out the word “against” so that it would read, “…I feel somewhat qualified to speak out against making it readily available…”
        If advice not to jump off, or play a dngerous game near a cliff is a judgement then, your comment made me look closer and recall how I have rapelled down a rope at great speed after receiving training from qualified instructors and some people even leap off with parachutes. If they have taken proper instruction and use proper gear I have nothing against it and, may even try it some time. However, if saying that being irresponsable near a cliff top is wrong, can be called a judgement then – OK I’m judging but – not irresponsably but, rather to show a comparison.
        A demand that everyone who doesn’t have personal subjective experience be excluded from the process of decision making strikes me as an attempt to control who talks. If citizens of a tropical country; who have never experienced weather cold enough to require a jacket; hear that their government is sending people to Antarctica without winter clothing or training in dealing with such extreme conditions – then they have a right to speak out. If I am judging then, so be it. God has warned that I will be judged according to my own standards so – I have been very careful to set them to a responsable level.
        Monsignor Pope did mention that he hadn’t sampled pot, which disclaimer I take as worthy. As usual he well indicates that he has done quality research and, that plus his previous record, shows to me a fair degree of qualification to speak out – even if it is imperfect.

    2. Monika, you do know that Hinduism condemns homosexual behavior of any kind and forbids sexual intercourse during daylight hours, right?

  44. Robertlifelongcatholic: you are actually very right indeed.

    Some years ago my father, talking with a fellow forensic dentist from Denmark, elicited the following prophetic statement from him. He said:”If you want to subdue a nation and take it over without firing a shot, there is no better weapon that marijuana”.

    Pot makes individuals so apathetic that society eventually crumbles. The British did it to the Chinese in the opium wars to win Hong Kong; the Dutch experiment has been an abject failure; one would not be surprised if Obama would use it to subdue America to his way – and then others will follow.

    May God have mercy on us.

  45. I have never been in a position to observe the long term effect of using this drug but I believe those who have observed the deleterious effects of using it. Common sense tells you it will be far more widely used especially by the young once it is legalized. Their logic is if it is legal it must be perfectly OK.

    Question: I have heard defenders remark that our past three Presidents of the United States used this drug and perhaps other drugs too. How does one respond to the suggestion that you can use this drug and still be a highly successful, functioning human being because these men used it and still became President.?

  46. Hi, Great article!

    I enjoy challenging “pot heads” to figure out a simple algebra or calculus problem if they are bold enough. Not once has anyone got it right. I’m taking simple 2x-5y=35 solve for y kind of stuff.

    BTW I speak from experience. Your description of the decline from pot smoking was my life from 1975-1985. 1.5 gpa no degree stoned, 3.8 gpa Cum Laude Bachelors in geology. I admit some can excel at math and science, and I have witnessed this. it’s not to say they’d be even more brilliant sand dope.

    But my overwhelming experience at high school and college is a sever drop in cognitive abilities and adoption of a rigid set of anti-social standards.



  47. Now that it’s legal I am seeing more articles such as this from members of the Church. Where was everyone when the push to legalize was in full swing?

    I have spoken with priests regarding this issue form twenty years, and each priest has basically told me to be complacent. Comments included (FROM PRIESTS) “It’s the same thing as having a beer”, “We can’t say it’s wrong because we don’t want to offend anyone”, ‘There is no such thing as right or wrong, it’s all a grey area”. Twelve years of Catholic school graduating in 1980 and I can tell you the new breed of priest is NOT the same as those who taught me.

    Now I have two children and have been humiliated by other Catholic parents for keeping my kids away from the pro-pot influence. For the past thirty years the Church leaders and members have kept their mouths shut and made a conscious decision to say nothing about this or other social issues. This is the result. Congratulations.

    I truly feel sorry for the next generation. We are handing them a church that will stand for nothing so as not to offend, a government that now has a stake in people using drugs so they can reap the tax benefits, and a generation of baby-boomer parents who actively condome drug use.

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