Catholic Church pumps cash into anti-cannabis campaign
A ballot in Massachusetts looks set to have cannabis legalised in the state soon … and the Catholic Church isn’t happy.
In fact, the the Boston Archdiocese – notorious for clerical sexual abuse of children – is so set against legalisation that it has poured $850,000 into a last-ditch effort to remove marijuana sales from the criminal sphere.
Why? Because, according to this report, it believes that legalisation will threaten the Church’s health and social-service programmes.
The church’s contribution represents about a 50 percent increase over what the anti-cannabis Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts has collected so far. The total, however, is still less than half of what has been raised by the referendum’s supporters.
Archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon said of the donation:
It reflects the fact that the archdiocese holds the matter among its highest priorities. It’s a recognition that, if passed, the law would have significantly detrimental impacts on our parishes, our ministries.
Donilon said the money comes from a discretionary, unrestricted central ministry fund, not from parish collection baskets or other programmes.
The pro-legalization forces say they aim to create a regulated and taxed market and point to statistics showing that current marijuana laws disproportionately hurt people of colour.
Opponents have cited the state’s opioid addiction crisis, warning that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that leads to more dangerous habits.
Said Jim Borghesani, above, a spokesman for the pro-marijuana group YES on 4:
The archdiocese has come up with a position that, frankly, we think is based on unfounded assumptions and junk science. But they can spend their money any way they wish.
What I think the archdiocese is missing is the terrible harm that prohibition has done to people of colour, to people who have chosen a substance that is less dangerous than alcohol and have had their lives ruined because they’ve been arrested.
On November 8 will decide four statewide ballot questions. On cannabis – known as Question 4 – polls consistently show the legalisation forces in the lead. A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released on Thursday showed likely voters backing the proposal, 49 percent to 42 percent.
The marijuana referendum comes at a time when national opinion appears to be swinging starkly in favour of legalised recreational use. Four other states will vote on similar questions, with polls showing them also trending toward approval.
A recent Pew Research Center poll pegged national support for legalisation at 57 percent, with 37 percent opposed — nearly the mirror image of public sentiment a decade ago. Increased acceptance in the states would likely ramp up pressure on the federal government to lift its decades-long ban.
Donilon said that the Archdiocese has identified the legalisation campaign as a threat to its sprawling umbrella of services – from anti-homelessness programmes, to food pantries, to parochial schools.
We provide extensive programmes, and the church has historically spoken out on issues that are both a public policy matter and also impact the wider society in terms of serving those who are truly in need.
We’re convinced now more than ever that these programmes will take a negative impact. It’s going to have a huge societal impact.
The bishops’ contribution represents the largest single donation against cannabis legalisation aside from the $1 million cheque written by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a conservative political financier.
The anti-legalisation campaign has raised more than $2.6 million, including the archdiocese’s contribution.
YES on 4 has raised $6.6 million so far, according to state campaign finance records.