As Illinois explores the possibility of legalizing cannabis for recreational use, the state’s six Catholic bishops say they’re urging lawmakers to say "no."
In a press release, the bishops said they are "committed to the common good, and therefore advise against legalization." Citing research that finds cannabis is addictive, they say legalizing the drug for recreational use will only add to substance abuse issues already prevelant in society.
Bob Gilligan, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, called cannabis a "gateway drug" and said it would not result in a "net positive" for the state.
"It is already out there, but more of it doesn't make it better," said Gilligan. "More marijuana, more enticement from corporate interests and those who can profit off it doesn't make society better off. I think the whole premise is wrong."
Advocates for legalization argue, hundreds of thousands of people already use cannabis and a state-run program will make the products safer and shrink the black market. They also propose using some of the tax dollars for education campaigns to let the public, and especially youth, aware of the potential dangers of the drug.
But Gilligan asked, if this is the case, then why legalize?
“If the legislature has to use revenue to support programs to urge people not to use marijuana, or if they use it, how to get off it, it begs the question as to why are we doing this at all.”
Lawmakers have yet to file any legislation, but did host a round-table discussion last week in Springfield to discuss questions and concerns from the public.