• <p>Marijuana plants are seen in a file photo. </p>

    Marijuana plants are seen in a file photo. (CNS photo by David McNew/Reuters)

NY Catholic conference decries recreational marijuana legalization

Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier    |    04.01.2021
Category: Local News


On March 31, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a law legalizing recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and older in the state. The state Senate and Assembly both had passed the legislation March 30.

The news was met with dismay by the New York State Catholic Conference, which previously had spoken out against the legislation.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act — S.854/A.1248 — changes the treatment of marijuana under both penal and public-health law. Among the many changes are:

• the creation of systems for licensing marijuana producers and distributors;

• the imposition of an excise tax on cannabis products; and

• the creation of a New York state cannabis revenue fund. Money for the fund will come from cannabis taxes, and this money will be used to implement the law as well as fund education in the state, the New York’s Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, and the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund.

This legislation will embrace an industry that will grow the state’s economy and prioritizes marginalized communities “so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” Cuomo said in a March 31 press release.

In passing this legislation, New York state lawmakers let the lure of money overcome concern for the well being of the state’s citizens, especially children, according to a March 30 statement from Dennis Poust, interim executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic bishops in public-policy matters.

This new legislation sends a message to children that marijuana is “harmless fun endorsed by the state,” according to Poust.

“The reality is quite different. The impact of today’s ultra-potent marijuana on developing brains is unclear. What is clear is that marijuana is a gateway drug that will have detrimental effects on untold numbers of young people and compound the current health crises of teen vaping and drug use, and will result in higher incidence of impaired driving and operation of machinery by adults,” he stated.

“Furthermore, to legalize recreational use of a substance designed to be inhaled deeply and held in the lungs is never a good idea, but at this particular moment in history when we are suffering from a horrific pandemic involving a novel virus that attacks the lungs, it is the height of irresponsibility,” Poust said.

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