I’m sure a host of issues is assailing your political consciousness this election season. To give you a (hopefully) welcome respite from the incessant mudslinging which pervades the airspace this year, I’d like to draw your attention to an issue that might be flying under the radar: North Dakota’s Measure 3. While it appears at a cursory glance to be fairly innocuous, the implications of the measure should not be lost on us.
Let’s start by looking at the key points of the measure. First, the measure would remove hashish, marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols (more commonly known as THC) from the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances in North Dakota. A drug may be classified as Schedule 1 for a variety of reasons, including high abuse potential and severe health risks. Note that it isn’t having its schedule lowered, but removed entirely. Because of that, the measure would add penalties for distributing marijuana to and possession by people under 21.
Next, it would alter the definition of drug paraphernalia to apply to items used in conjunction with non-marijuana controlled substances. Finally, several provisions would be made to negate the criminality of marijuana, including striking charges from conviction records, preventing prosecution of nonviolent marijuana-related activity, and a generic loophole that nullifies and repeals any existing laws which conflict with the new Chapter 66-01 being created. These provisions allow a striking flexibility of interpretation and a lack of regulation, which could prove to be problematic.
Effectively, the passing of this measure would allow recreational marijuana use for people 21 and older. The most alarming thing about this measure isn’t what’s in it, but rather what’s not. It seems irresponsible at best to have such a broad and unregulated approach to legalization. Before making such sweeping changes, the creators of the measure should have put a good deal of thought into potential problems that the measure will create. How is sale and taxation to be handled? How will driving under the influence of cannabis be regulated?
Without this kind of forethought codified in the measure, law enforcement and the legislature will be forced to deal with unprecedented situations on a case-by-case basis, resulting in tedious legal proceedings and potentially ambiguous outcomes. If this measure would be even close to permissible, it would need to contain some semblance of protocol for handling circumstances made relevant by legalization. This is certainly not to say that, from a moral standpoint, marijuana would be a good thing even if it were legal.
The Catholic Church teaches the concept of sobriety, meaning that we should live moderately and in such a way that facilitates the use of our minds to choose good. The Church recognizes the fact that marijuana inhibits that capacity. Some may argue to the contrary, that marijuana has therapeutic effects, or that it is simply “just for fun”. Pope Francis has some emphatic words to say on this subject. He says
“Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects. Here I would reaffirm what I have stated on another occasion: No to every type of drug use. It is as simple as that.”
As Catholics, we are called to embrace the difficulties of life. We should not attempt to escape the reality of our lives by anesthetizing ourselves with drugs. There are other forms of recreation which allow us to experience the reality of God’s love for us. Christ so desires for us to lay the yoke of our pain and trial upon His shoulders so that He might carry it. He delights in doing so. The pain we experience builds us up, and taking it away removes an avenue of spiritual growth in our lives.
I hope you will join me in voting ‘no’ on Measure 3.
Full Text Of Measure 3. (2018). Retrieved from ND Government: https://vip.sos.nd.gov/pdfs/Measures%20Info/Petitions%20Being%20Circulated/Legalization%20of%20Marijuana.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0evAJdk14f6tVtrIh332P1HQ1XqmbkJPGc6FFCpTPwwI1iRJvwo5EPB-c
Service, C. N. (2016, April 4). Quotes from Pope Francis on drugs. Retrieved October 2018, from Catholic News: http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2016/quotes-from-pope-francis-on-drugs.cfm?fbclid=IwAR0LtwIcueGBkPh8hpsXRLehY4gM1KSF739H_lWhxIHBzNsCRRt2Gvg0qqE