Arizona Catholic Leaders Oppose Marijuana Legalization, Citing Need to Protect Kids

Arizona Catholic Leaders Oppose Marijuana Legalization, Citing Need to Protect KidsEXPAND
Ahmed Zayan / Unsplash
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

The public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Arizona has weighed in on Proposition 207, the November ballot initiative that seeks to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.

They don't like it.

Legalized weed “sends a message to children that drug use is socially and morally acceptable,” the Bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference wrote in a joint letter, published September 25. “As people of faith, we must speak out against this effort and the damaging effects its passage would have on children and families.”

The statement was signed by Rev. Edward J. Weisenburger, Bishop of Tucson; Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix; Rev. James S. Wall, Bishop of Gallup; Rev. Eduardo A. Nevares, Auxiliary Bishop of Phoenix; and Rev. John S. Pazak, Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix.

As rationale, the bishops cite rising child fatality rates in Arizona attributed to marijuana and state that “problematic” marijuana use is 25 percent higher among teens in states that legalized recreational marijuana.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment might beg to differ. The state agency recently published a survey that found youth marijuana use has not significantly changed since the drug was legalized in Colorado in 2014. There, 20.6 percent of high school students and 5.2 percent of middle school students reported cannabis consumption in 2019. Both those numbers are lower than they were pre-legalization, in 2011, when those rates were 22 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively.

A 2019 study from Washington, which also legalized recreational marijuana, explained declining youth pot use in the state by suggesting a “loss of novelty appeal” — in other words, the normalization and regulation of cannabis had the effect of making marijuana a less attractive vehicle for youth rebellion.

The bishops also opposed Proposition 205, Arizona's failed 2016 legalization measure. They cited different reasons back then, though, such as the drug's impact on the IQ of adolescents (a correlation that has not conclusively been established) and the "gateway" theory that marijuana use leads to harder drugs, which is also not proven

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.