Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Catholic bishops oppose recreational marijuana

By Cole Lauterbach
Illinois News Network

CHICAGO — Illinois’ six Catholic bishops are asking lawmakers not to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use, saying the consequences would outweigh any benefits, including those aimed changing the criminal justice system.

As the push for recreational cannabis begins in earnest, the Catholic Conference of Illinois, which represents the state’s six Roman Catholic bishops, has announced its opposition to any legislation that would allow for recreational use of marijuana.

“Just a few years ago, we heard too many stories of children turned into orphans after their parents overdosed on heroin,” the bishops said in a statement released Monday. “Today, we hear of the opioid crisis and the lives it claims. If marijuana is legalized, it will only add to the problem.”

Director Robert Gilligan said marijuana remains a dangerous drug.

“It can impair short-term memory, motor skills, it can increase risk of injuries while driving, alters judgment and high use can lead to paranoia and psychosis,” he said.

Gilligan said that making marijuana more accessible would make it easier to get into the hands of underage kids.

The bishops said decriminalization of the drug was enough.

“Advocates of legalization rightly point to the racial disparity of our jail and prison populations, noting that marijuana infractions often lead to lives trapped in the criminal justice system,” the statement said. “We recognize the truth of that premise, while observing that recent sentencing reforms should soon reverse that trend, since possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana now results in a ticket of up to $200 and no jail time.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office estimates that full legalization could bring the state up to $1 billion annually.

Some law enforcement groups have also announced opposition to recreational marijuana.

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