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Marijuana legalization would harm children, increase traffic deaths
November 1st, 2016
By Cardinal William J. Levada

From the earliest political philosophies, a measure of good governance has always been how well a proposed policy or legislation anticipates and prepares for the inevitable consequences. A prudent government makes decisions based on sound reasoning, accurate data and benefits to the body politic.

Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, fails that concise and clear test on far too many levels. Even a cursory examination of data on marijuana legalization reveals that too little is known about the impact on the health and education of our children, the increased danger on our highways, the impact on economically challenged neighborhoods and black market expansion of cannabis-related commerce.

Two states that have recently legalized marijuana – Washington and Colorado – provide us with a preview of the harmful consequences we will experience should Proposition 64 pass. These are entirely foreseeable and, given the diversity of the Golden State, likely to be magnified in both severity and number.

For instance, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that emergency room visits by children and calls to poison control hotlines are increasing in Colorado as children ingest cannabis products that look and taste like everyday candies. Toddlers from 2 to 3 years old are the most common victims. The state of Washington has also seen increases.

California’s population is seven times that of Colorado and almost six times that of Washington. The impact legalization will have on our children is not something that should be trivialized and certainly not something we should be willing to “work out later.”

Other changes are taking place in Colorado. The high school dropout rate increased for the first time in nine years and the graduation rate did not improve. Traffic deaths related to marijuana use are up and marijuana from Colorado has begun appearing in other states.

Washington finds that 27 percent of 12th graders use marijuana, with the percentage growing. Even more frightening is a 2014 study published by the American Physiological Association, which demonstrated that regular marijuana use in teens led to a 6-point decrease in IQ by the time they reached adulthood and actually resulted in changes to brain structure.

Abuses and excess of any kind, be it with food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine diminish and rob us of our capacity to live a dignified life. Why – at a time when we have made great strides in public health concerns such as reducing the use of tobacco, raising awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, or promoting the benefit of exercise and nutrition – would we want to encourage a practice that could lead to addiction and unhealthy side effects?

We already hear daily reports about an “epidemic” of drug use in this nation, with its negative consequences on family, work and health. The jury of qualified experts seems to find marijuana an entry level drug that, in far too many cases, can lead to even stronger and more dangerous drugs. And clearly, as tragically demonstrated in Colorado and Washington, public safety officials are justified in expressing great concern about marijuana and driving.

Experimenting with the health and welfare of our children, the potential impact on road safety, not to mention the medical and legal implications that are far from resolved, seem to me to take us in a dangerous and unwise direction. The California initiative process places great responsibility on all of us for good governance in this area. When we consider the many potential negative consequences of legalizing recreational marijuana, our prudent response should be to vote NO on Proposition 64.

Cardinal Levada is archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

From November 3, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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