The Archdiocese of Agana on Monday expressed its “strong opposition” to the proposed legalization of recreational marijuana, saying Guam is “already riddled with a drug problem of epidemic magnitude.”
The Archdiocese issued the statement as the legislature continued deliberating on Sen. Clynt Ridgell’s Bill 32-35, which proposes to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana on Guam. Senators voted on several amendments to the bill, including the allocation of $49,000 for substance abuse treatment, as well as the prohibition of establishing marijuana businesses within a distance of 1,000 feet from schools.
The Archdiocese, however, said policymakers should “focus on reducing the presence of illegal drugs and substances that intoxicate our people, not aid their proliferation.”
“Marijuana, like many drugs, is an addictive substance. Users are attracted to the pleasure and relaxation that cannabis produces,” the Archdiocese said. “Taking pot for recreational purposes is often a way for individuals to escape the burdens, worries and responsibilities that they may encounter in life. However, the sense of peace that drug abuse and reliance on illicit substances offer is illusory. It is a false solution that only creates more problems for individuals ... and the people that surround them.”
The Archdiocese cited data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2015, which showed that the percent of high school students from Guam who report they have used marijuana one or more times in their lives was 49 percent, which is 10 percent higher than their counterparts in the U.S. mainland.
“Numerous studies describe how long term marijuana use can be especially damaging on the brain development of individuals who began use of the drug as teenagers,” the statement said.
The Church said while permits the use of some drugs for therapeutic purposes such as relieving pain and nausea, “it is clear about the evils of drug abuse.”
“Whenever the Catholic Church examines issues that have a social, civic and moral bearing in the community, we are guided by the divine laws of God, the tenets of our faith and the call to work with all people for the common good,” the statement reads.