Joe Hargrave at The American Catholic makes a case for California's Prop 19 (state-level legalization of marijuana for recreational use). I participated in the commentary and thought I'd crosspost here.
One of the commenters (Chris C.) pointed out:
Recreational use of drugs is prohibited by the CCC [Catechism of the Catholic Church]. That alcohol and tobacco are used legally is hardly a valid argument in favor.
I don’t live in CA, but I’d be voting yes on 19 if I did. I hope it passes, if only so we can find out what the consequences will be. One of the benefits of having 50 states is that we can have 50 laboratories of laws.
About the CCC — I’ve always found the wording of the English in that section (#2281) bizarre. It says baldly that the use of “drugs” is gravely wrong, without qualification — and that would seem to mean that we can’t use alcohol or tobacco either, period. Are alcohol and tobacco not drugs? It would strike me as extremely odd and/or convenient that the teaching of a universal Church that knows no boundaries of nation or state would correspond exactly with the controlled-substance laws of the U. S. of A. Cigarettes are peachy keen as long as you don’t abuse them, but joints are inherently evil? This makes no logical sense.
The Latin is “stupefactivorum medicamentorum usus.” Anyone want to take a stab at that one? Does the term “medicamentorum” imply that naturally occurring substances (alcohol, tobacco, and various psychoactive plants) aren’t included?
The second part of #2281 [correction: #2291] makes reference to illegal drugs only (and it makes sense that the Church would want us to obey local laws even regarding substances the use of which is not INTRINSICALLY evil).
I hope someone can answer my questions about the Catechism's wording on this one, because I honestly don't get it. I seriously cannot see a logical reason why it should be inherently wrong to use pot, and yet not inherently wrong to use alcohol. I have heard people say that it's "impossible" to use marijuana moderately, but have never seen any data to that effect. I have never seen any data that indicates there are any special arguments against marijuana use that could not be levelled equally (or worse) at alcohol.
(And I write, by the way, as a regular consumer of alcohol who has never used either marijuana or tobacco and probably never will regardless of legality).
For reference, here're the Latin and English texts of the passage in the Catechism.
2290 Temperantiae virtus ad omne genus excessuum vitandum disponit, abusum mensae, vinolentiae, tabaci et medicamentorum. Qui in ebrietatis statu vel propter immoderatam velocitatis voluptatem, securitati aliorum vel suae propriae periculum afferunt in viis, in mari vel in aere, graviter fiunt culpabiles.
2291 Stupefactivorum medicamentorum usus gravissimas infligit valetudini et vitae humanae destructiones. Extra indicationes stricte therapeuticas, gravis est culpa. Clandestina stupefactivorum medicamentorum productio et mercatura operationes sunt scandalosae; cooperationem constituunt directam, quoniam ad usus legi morali incitant graviter contrarios.
2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others' safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.
2291 The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.
Comments on the morality situation? (Feel free to comment on the legality situation if it interests you, but what I'm really interested in here is why the Church would distinguish between the morality of marijuana and tobacco, because I don't see why it should -- and I'm not positive that it does.)