Recreational Marijuana

Published on March 23rd, 2020

Memorandum of Opposition


Re: A.1617-C Peoples-Stokes / S.1527-C Krueger
In relation to Recreational Marijuana

The above-referenced legislation would legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana in New York State. The New York State Catholic Conference strongly opposes this legislation.

In opposing this legislation, we cite our 2019 statement, in which we urged the legislature to reject such a plan, citing consequences from increased teenage and childhood use, impact on developing brains, natural progression to harder drug use, and increased impairment-related transportation accidents and deaths.

“Of particular concern regarding the movement toward legalization is the impact on children, and the normalization of usage that state approval encourages,” we wrote.

While the Catholic Conference statement noted the seriousness of racial disparities in enforcement of marijuana offenses, we said the state could take “appropriate measures to ensure that skin color or zip code do not result in different outcomes for the same offense.” Indeed, subsequent to the Conference statement last year, the state decriminalized possession and use of low levels of marijuana.

New York’s medical, education and law enforcement communities have urged the state to reject recreational marijuana legalization, and so does the New York State Catholic Conference.

At this moment, New York State is in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic. This virus causes severe respiratory illness in many of those who are infected. It would be the height of irresponsibility for the state to legalize a substance designed to be inhaled deeply into the lungs of the user at this time in particular. Science has not told us yet the impact of marijuana smoke on coronavirus patients. Our health care system is poised to be flooded with patients; we must not take any action that could potentially increase bad outcomes for those who are sick.

Finally, the coronavirus outbreak has led to the closing of the Capitol to visitors. To pass controversial legislation on major social issues at such a time when public hearings cannot be held and advocates cannot make their case would give the impression that the voice of opposition has been silenced. This is too important an issue for government officials to determine in the absence of full and open debate.