My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Our country and our state are in the midst of a substance abuse crisis. In particular, when we look at the opioid epidemic that seems to be threatening the health of our city, as well as the push for the legalization of marijuana in our state, my concern, as Bishop of the diocese in Brooklyn and Queens and as a social worker for the mental health of our youth, I feel obliged to speak out on this issue.
Notwithstanding the argument being made that the current enforcement of laws regarding the use of marijuana abuse falls disproportionally on minority users, I must say, that this is another issue that has to do with equal enforcement of laws, regardless of neighborhoods or racial and ethnic characteristics. I speak directly to the ill effects of marijuana, especially on our youth.
Recently, I obtained a study from the State of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment entitled, “Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado: 2016 – Changes in Marijuana Use Patterns, Systematic Literature Review, and Possible Marijuana-Related Health Effects.” Although I suspected that marijuana had little health values, after reading this study of nearly 300 pages I am more convinced than ever that marijuana use is something that needs to be controlled as a public health hazard.
For example, public health statements that were issued in this study, entitled “Evidence Statements,” have been officially approved by the Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee. This committee is the group set up to oversee the sale of marijuana in the State of Colorado. Its members, themselves, not withstanding their responsibility overseeing the sale and taxing of marijuana, issued these Evidence Statements.
Cognitive and academic
1) Weekly or more frequent marijuana use by adolescents and young adults is associated with impaired learning, memory, math and reading achievement, even 28 days after last use.
- a) These impairments increase with more frequent marijuana use.
2) There is conflicting evidence on whether or not adolescent marijuana use is associated with changes in future IQ scores.
3) Weekly or more frequent marijuana use by adolescents is strongly associated with failure to graduate from high school.
4) Weekly or more frequent marijuana use by adolescents and young adults may be associated with not attaining a college degree.
5) Marijuana use by adolescents and young adults is strongly associated with developing psychotic symptoms in adulthood, such as hallucinations, paranoia, and delusional beliefs.
- a) This risk is higher with more frequent marijuana use.
- b) This risk may be higher among those who start using marijuana at a younger age.
6) Daily or near-daily marijuana use by adolescents and young adults is associated with developing a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia in adulthood.
Substance use, abuse, and addiction
7) Some marijuana users become addicted to marijuana. Starting marijuana use during adolescence or young adulthood is associated with future marijuana addiction.
8) Marijuana use by adolescents and young adults – even less-than-weekly use – is associated with future high-risk use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, opioids, and methamphetamine.
Benefits of quitting
9) Adolescents and young adults who quit marijuana use have a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment or mental health disorders than those who continue to use.
10) There are treatments for marijuana addiction that can reduce use and dependence.
Public Health statements
1) Marijuana smoke, both firsthand and secondhand, contains many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco smoke.
2) Daily or near-daily marijuana smoking is strongly associated with pre-malignant lesions that may lead to cancer in the airways.
1) We found SUBSTANTIAL evidence that adults who use marijuana daily or near-daily are more likely than non-users to have memory impairments for at least seven days after last use.
Mental health effects
1) We found SUBSTANTIAL evidence that THC intoxication can cause acute psychotic symptoms, which are worse with higher doses.
Chemical content or marijuana smoke or vapor
1) We found SUBSTANTIAL evidence that marijuana smoke, both mainstream and sidestream, contains many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco smoke.
As you can see from these statements, based on scientific evidence, it is not advisable that the State of New York legalize the sale of non-medical marijuana which eventually will fall into the hands of adolescents in our state. Adult use of marijuana also presents the same issues. These findings are aimed at teenagers and young adults who perhaps will be the greatest consumers of this newly legalized addictive-gateway drug.
I bring this important matter to your attention because I believe that we have a responsibility as Catholics to oppose something that will be so detrimental to the public health of our young people. I urge you to contact your state senators and assembly members to express your dismay and disapproval at the current push to legalize marijuana in the State of New York, be it on the part of candidates for elected office or those currently in office.
Many in our society today would relegate religion and its insights to the inside of church buildings only. Our responsibility as a pillar of society, however, is in regards to its moral fabric and the wellbeing of its members. I bring this to your attention with the hope that our collective efforts may stave off a disaster for our great State of New York. The ill effects of the use of marijuana on the impairment of judgment while driving have also been well documented.
For the above reasons and many others, please put out into the deep with me by making sure that our elected officials understand what a further crisis of addiction they will unleash in our state.