In response to proposal to legalize marijuana in the state, the 28 bishops represented by the New York State Catholic Conference issued a statement decrying the “harmful substance” with “multiple deleterious effects.”

Late last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he would make the legalization of marijuana a legislative priority in 2019. Cuomo is pushing to have it included in legislation setting the state budget for fiscal year 2020, which starts April 1. The bill would limit legalization to those 21 and older.

In response, the New York State Catholic Conference issued a statement saying their stance in opposition was in line with education, medical, and law enforcement authorities.

“The Catholic Church is not prohibitionist but at the same time we believe the government should not be encouraging destructive behavior, whether gambling or drug use, to raise revenue.”

To legalize marijuana would be to open a “Pandora’s box that will have multiple deleterious effects on individuals, families, and all of society.”

“Vice is not an appropriate economic development engine for a state that prides itself as a national progressive leader. Our state motto is Excelsior, ever upward, but policies that exploit addiction instead lead us ever downward.”

The plan would bring in an estimated 300 million dollars in revenue yearly for New York. But the Conference said no amount of money would be worth the “increased teenage and childhood usage, harmful effects on developing brains, addiction, natural progression to harder drug use, increased impairment-related transportation accidents and deaths, and other potential public health and safety issues.”

The Conference said the age limit in the proposed bill would be easily circumvented, and concerned with the “impact on children.”

“Proponents argue that usage will be restricted to age 21 and older but, as we have seen in the alcohol and tobacco industries, producers of harmful products always find a way to market their products to children.”

The Conference called on the state to “ensure that skin color or ZIP code do not result in different outcomes for the same offense,” saying “we must not simply throw up our hands and legalize a harmful substance in order to declare the problem of discrimination solved.”

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