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It seems that substance abuse is becoming normalized in the United States.  Abusing drugs is contrary to Catholic teaching.  As marijuana legalization goes into effect in Colorado, here is a reminder on how Catholics should think about the abuse of drugs.

[font=Times New Roman]Marijuana and Catholic Belief

December 11, 2013

Colorado residents are bracing for Jan. 1, 2014, when the shelves of approved dispensaries will be stocked for the first time with recreational marijuana. Because of this change in our state’s laws, I have invited Professor Christian Brugger, a moral theologian from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, to write about the ethical issues involved in the legalization of marijuana. It is important for us to understand the impact this decision will have on our youth and most especially what studies show concerning the long-term use of marijuana.

By E. Christian Brugger, Ph.D.

Prior to its legalization, morally conscientious people had at least one clear reason for opposing pot smoking: it’s against the law (a misdemeanor offense in most states for possessing small amounts).

Now that it’s legal, how should conscientious people assess the situation? This short article will only address a small number of questions associated with pot smoking, questions most relevant as the Jan. 1 deadline approaches. For purposes of space it will not address other questions, such as whether and under what circumstances it is legitimate to use marijuana for therapeutic purposes.

First we need clarity on the drug’s effects on users.

The intoxicating chemical in marijuana is called THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).  It acts on the brain by stimulating the reward system in a way that causes a kind of euphoria (a “high”).  The high results from a release of the chemical dopamine, as with other intoxicating drugs.  Although relaxation may accompany the high, along with a modified perception of time and increased appetite, it may also cause feelings of anxiety, fear or panic.  When the drug wears off, users often feel sleepy and depressed.

In addition, short-term memory is impaired, as is one’s ability to shift focus and make judgments.  Coordination, balance and reaction time are also impaired making driving a dangerous business.

Persistent effects of continual use include long-term memory and learning impairment, addiction and respiratory problems similar to those associated with cigarette smoking.

Pot smoking also correlates to long-term anxiety and depression including in those who no longer smoke it, to the loss of motivation, and to an increased risk of psychosis, although the research on the relationship between marijuana use and mental illness have yet to demonstrate a causal effect.

Recreational users smoke marijuana in order to induce in themselves the euphoria mentioned above (i.e., to get “high”).  They don’t smoke it to feel anxious or depressed, to lose motivation, impair their long-term memory, or contract bronchitis.  To the extent they believe that these repugnant effects may occur, they accept them as unwelcomed side-effects.

This high entails an alteration of their perceptions and faculties of cognition.  Since human cognition is a precondition for making any choices, good or bad, to impair our cognition means impairing our ability to make choices.

Morally conscientious people know that consistently acting well, even when we’re cognitively at the top of our games, is difficult.  We face temptations from within in the form of unruly emotions and outside in the form of alluring self-destructive alternatives and the inducements of unscrupulous people.

When we’re high, it’s even more difficult to make good choices, for example, to act modestly, to treat members of the opposite sex with dignity and respect, to speak with due moderation, to maintain the reputations of others, not to eat or drink to excess, to be faithful to daily prayer, to keep faith in the face of difficult circumstances, etc.

Sacred Scripture has little to say about getting high, but it has a lot to say about drunkenness.  St. Paul teaches that drunkenness is wrong because it prevents us from making wise choices and discerning God’s will (Eph 5:18); drunkenness is the behavior of those who walk in darkness (Rom 13:13).  Jesus condemns drunkenness because it weighs down the heart and makes us inattentive to the coming of the Lord (Luke 21:31).

We can level these same charges against getting high.  The intoxication that marijuana induces impairs our consciousness, makes us less receptive to carrying out God’s plan for our lives and lends to conduct unbecoming of a Christian.

Therefore, if we smoke pot with the intention of getting high, we do wrong.  It follows that to the extent that the Colorado law aims at sanctioning pot smoking in order to get high, it’s a harmful and unjust law.

The injustice falls most heavily upon the young who are most likely to be influenced by the bad public example of pot smokers.  Moral psychology indisputably shows that desire arises from the senses: from seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting and feeling.  Children, especially adolescents, who see their peers, their neighbors, or worse, their parents smoking pot, who smell the distinctly sweet odor, who hear about the “merits of getting high,” are much more likely to desire it, try it and become users.  They will invariably—as is characteristic of the young—focus on the short-term “benefits” to the exclusion of the long-term risks of increased apathy, anxiety and depression.

Injustice is also done to parents who will find it much harder to protect their children from the almost irresistible temptation to experiment with this once forbidden fruit.

My one piece of advice to parents is to talk to their children clearly and frequently about the new temptations.  Don’t pretend in your discussions with your kids that pot offers them no benefits.  If it offered no benefits, no one would desire to use it.

But the benefits come at a serious cost: physically, psychologically, morally and spiritually.
I used to be a heavy pot smoker from my mid teens through my early 20's and can tell you that it is not a harmless substance. It's very subjective in it's psychological effects and i can remember sometimes being at ease and peaceful and at others almost psychotic,paranoid and wrapped up in my thoughts. Every weird quirk you have( face it, everyone has some) and every strange and random thought that goes through your head is magnified on pot, making for a wild ride. I can see why for those who are already on the verge of a breakdown, marijuana could lead you over the edge. It helped destroy my money, my grades in school, my motivation, my connection to reality and my friendships and family life. There are no real physical withdrawals from it the.way the are with alcohol or other types of drugs but it can be psychologically addictive. Perhaps there are medically valid uses for the stuff by i don't think it's a good idea to make it available for recreational use. Drugs really do mess you up in ways that only a junkie or someone close to one can really understand.

I don't like pot, just to set the record straight. But there is a big difference between "abuse" and "use."  Altering the consciousness to some degree seems to be an in-built "thing" with man. Even little kids spin themselves around 'til they get dizzy. I watch my just-turned-one-year-old grandson shake his head back and forth and then stopping to look around at how weird everything looks after having done that. Of course, just because something is natural and typical doesn't mean it's "good," but it is a part of our nature, and there are lines in all this. Everyone knows about the communal aspects of having drinks and loosening up some, getting a bit silly, and it's not against Catholic teaching to do that. It's the same with most drugs.

Having smoked a lot of pot back in the day, multiple decades ago, as a teenager (when I did derive pleasure from it), I maintain that pot -- at least the stuff we used to smoke -- is much less dangerous than alcohol. On the other hand, I understand that weed has gotten TONS more powerful lately, with even serious dope smokers saying it's too strong (an idea that other pot-smokers laff at and think is silly). But I think that that style of weed is a result of the war on (some) drugs -- same with crack as opposed to powder cocaine. People want the most bang for the buck in a system where getting caught with any of it can get you thrown in jail. "In for a penny, in for a pound." My guess is that the less powerful, more "old school" weed -- the kind of cannabis God designed -- will make a comeback, especially since the "ritual" of smoking is (or at least was for my generation) part of the fun of it. Toke and pass it on, a communal thing. And the effects were to get you silly and having some laffs. Nowadays, it's one toke and you're done. And maybe out, with people turning inward and into vegetables.

Anyway, with all of this sort of thing, it's a matter of keeping your will intact and not causing harm. If someone drinks or smokes something or eats something, etc., that makes him prone to sin, that weakens his moral character or causes harm, he needs to stop or at least cut back to the other side of those lines.

Vox is right on point, abuse is no reason to prohibit the use. Some will abuse women. Should we lock them all up ??  I never liked it, but abused alcohol like many think DK used to do. I had a high tolerance and abused it by drinking all the time. I stopped on a dime, Thank You God, without any internal turmoil.

Here's the deal I have a long view and was an abuser of booze, but this stuff ain't like all the right wing repressers portray it as a gateway drug. The money we'd save could help get us out of the hole. The War on Drugs is a failure and was a gigantic mistake.

It's the puritanical bent of America which criminalizes anything. I believe either Pope Pius X or XI liked his wine laced with cocaine. Here we have laws for the age to drink and that is a parent's job not the G'ment.

And last but not least I still can drink but do not abuse it. I like to drink in a social setting where it's meant to be fun and funny. Then with a few I'll lose my fear and sing George Jones or Howlin' Wolf with a small strainer for my "microphone".

I never saw the big deal with everyone's demonizing pot, it's on par with alcohol and tobacco, yet is viewed as more similar to crack, heroin and meth by those that don't know any better. I did a lot of drugs (A LOT) and feel perfectly comfortable and assured that I'm not in sin, smoking pot every night, just as comfortable as I would with a beer or two. The distinction between use and abuse is so blurred its ridiculous.
(01-07-2014, 05:09 PM)seanipie Wrote: [ -> ]I did a lot of drugs (A LOT) and feel perfectly comfortable and assured that I'm not in sin, smoking pot every night, just as comfortable as I would with a beer or two.

Look what they did with nearly no proof with Cigarettes. If you smoke like me, you'd know it's nearly total persecution. The youngest generation in my family sees me as loathsome smoker kind of like what an abortionist should be treated.  All of the propaganda which is now considered settled science came from Congressional Witch Hunts, because the Tobacco Companies gave money to the Republicans. It was reported here in Chicago some time back the exhaust from the buses here is 13 times more carcinogenic than smoking cigarettes. Now this ain't LA, it's more like NYC and most take public transportation. Go figure.

I don't know what you mean by the face. I can assure everyone that the weed today isn't much better than it ever was before. There is no one hitter quitter, unless you've got virgin lungs, I've never seen anyone veg out unless they smoke 24/7.
The bad thing about pot use among is if used heavily can make you very lazy/unmotivated and I worry about this with the younger generation coming out of high school and starting a career plus what about driving under its influence and laws for would police detect it if they couldn't smell it
The huge problem with drug laws is unrelated to the actual nature of the drugs. Using marijuana is a terrible idea, but alcohol and cigarettes cause more problems.

The real problem is giving the government support in its massive "war on drugs" which has the following wonderful effects:
-wastes lots of money (LOTS)
-gives government agents license to bully people
-puts people (especially poor people, especially minorities) in jail for long periods of time for ridiculous reasons
-makes us the developed nation with the highest rates of incarceration
-makes possible the development of drug cartels in Mexico, arms trafficking, the paramilitaries and guerillas in Colombia, etc

What it does not do:
-stop people from actually using drugs.
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