What is the Church’s Position on Marijuana?

We go now to Jim in Brighton, Michigan, listening
on Ave Maria Radio, Jim, you’re on with Jimmy Akin. Hey, thanks for taking my call. I have not heard a whole lot—we’re in
Michigan, and I assume it’s gonna be on the ballot here about legalization of marijuana—but
also the medical marijuana exists here in our state, and I don’t see a lot of response
or any kind of, well, opinion from the Church—maybe they’re not putting it out yet, but is there
a position at this point from the Catholic Church yet on these two areas? On medical marijuana and recreational marijuana,
and should they be allowed legally? Well, I should say, does the Church have a
position on them? For example, if I was a patient that had some
type of illness where my doctor said, “You should be consuming marijuana,” is that
acceptable within the Church? Okay. Well, so, assuming that your doctor is right,
yeah. I mean, now, in assessing that somebody should
be pursuing a particular course of treatment, there need to be several facts that are verified:
number one, that there’s a genuine condition, medical condition that the person has; number
two, that this treatment will effectively address it; number three, that there aren’t
better alternatives, such as alternatives that are more effective or less expensive
or have fewer side effects. But assuming that those conditions are fulfilled,
then…the medical advice is sound, and the Church doesn’t have a problem with sound
medical advice. Now there’s a question, when it comes to
marijuana, about, well, how effective is it, and what conditions might it be appropriate
for? It is obviously a substance that affects the
way your mind works, but there are lots of substances that do that; I mean, morphine
does that, and doctors give patients morphine all the time, because it’s a pain reliever
and there are conditions in which you need serious pain relief. And so morphine has some side effects, but
there are situations where it’s appropriate to use morphine; and in the same way, hypothetically,
there could be situations where the medical use of marijuana is appropriate. However, because the medical marijuana movement
in this country has been part of a broader movement towards pushing for its recreational
use, there’s some question about, well, how effective is it, really? Is this just a cover for recreational use? And that’s something that is—whether there
are legitimate uses for it medically—is an empirical question. And it’s one that, I’m not a doctor, I
haven’t studied the evidence, I can’t give you an opinion on that. I can sketch out the principles that are involved
in when use of a treatment, including a narcotic, is appropriate; but then there are appropriate
situations, medically, for the use of narcotics—like morphine, to mention just one. In terms of recreational use, the problem
there is that…when people use marijuana or alcohol or anything in a way that deprives
them of their ability to make moral decisions, then they are—and they’re doing it just
for fun, not because there’s a compelling reason, like “I need to have surgery,”
but they’re doing it just for fun, and they’re depriving themselves of the capacity for moral
reason—that’s something that, of itself, is sinful because it puts you in the proximate
occasion of committing sins, potentially even grave sins; like when a person gets drunk
on alcohol and goes out driving, okay. That would be an example. In terms of marijuana, I’m not aware of
a specific position paper that’s been taken on this; however, the Church, in general,
opposes the legalization of recreational use of narcotics. And so that’s the calculus that would likely
be applied in this situation. Now there can be situations where a law, even
though it’s a good idea in principle, could be producing really bad effects in society;
for example, when the United States tried to outlaw alcohol, you know, in almost all
circumstances, during prohibition. That produced some really negative consequences,
including the rise of organized crime. And so…now, the use of alcohol is not, in
principle, problematic, as long as it’s used in moderation; but the United States
experienced the problems of a law that a lot of people thought had a good moral justification,
but it had really bad consequences and ended up getting repealed. So the question of legalization of recreational
use of marijuana, or any other narcotic, is something the Church is going to be opposed
to in principle; however, if there were really horrendous problems being caused by it, then
there could be some discussion of that question. We’ll have to leave it there, Jim. I hope that was helpful.

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