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The moral dimension of legalizing recreational marijuana


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The following is an edited version of an article that appeared in the June 26, 2015 edition of The Pilot. -- Ed.

Eight years after decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and four years after approving medical marijuana, Massachusetts voters will soon decide whether they want to take the next step and legalize recreational pot.

Question 4 asking to legalize recreational marijuana will appear on the next Massachusetts ballot Nov. 8.

The question of full marijuana legalization is a complicated one for Catholic voters who want to study the issue from a moral and ethical standpoint as there is no defined Catholic teaching on cannabis.

But Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other Church documents condemn drunkenness and recreational drug use that impair the mind and body. Pro-marijuana advocates often compare pot to alcohol, which can be consumed in moderation. But ethicists such as E. Christian Brugger, a moral theology professor at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado, say that is a false comparison.

"Most people who consume alcohol consume it moderately and not with the end in mind to get themselves drunk. But with marijuana, it would seem to me that the great majority, over 90 percent, of those who smoke marijuana do it to get high," Brugger said.

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