For years now, celebrities and politicians across the country and around the globe have been coming out in support of marijuana reform in increasing numbers.
But count one world leader who wants nothing to do with legal weed: Pope Francis.
Speaking at a drug conference in Rome June 20, the pope called legalization “a veiled means of surrendering to the phenomenon” of drug use and addiction. He said even low-key legalization campaigns “are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.”
Francis came to the Vatican from Argentina, which neighbors Uruguay, now the only place in the world where pot is fully legal at every level of government.
Marijuana Rules Are Loosening
Legalization is gaining ground elsewhere, too. Jamaica recently decriminalized possession of marijuana, meaning people caught with small amounts will be subject to small fines rather than jail.
Weed is effectively legal in the Netherlands, North Korea (for what that’s worth), Washington State, and Colorado. And new places, including Alaska and Oregon, are on the verge of legalizing.
Meanwhile, 23 states and the District of Columbia now allow medical marijuana, while 16 states and the capital have decriminalized recreational pot. More than half the U.S. population lives in places where MMJ is legal, where recreational weed is legal, or where recreational weed is decriminalized.
Francis Takes Aim at Addiction
Even in the face of this momentum, the pope’s comments weren’t surprising. Francis has targeted drug use and addiction from the pulpit in the past.
“Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” he said at the International Drug Enforcement Conference.
But Francis may not have the impact on drug policy that previous popes could have had. Times are changing, and the idea of marijuana reform is increasingly popular – especially in the United States and in Europe, the pope’s home territory.
Most Favor Reform
Recent polls show most Americans back legalization of cannabis for recreational use, while large majorities want to see their states adopt medical marijuana. A January poll from CNN and ORC International found 55 percent of Americans favor full legalization.
Still, Francis holds the ear of a massive, attentive audience. He could be a major asset to opponents of reform. At the conference in June, he attacked the harm-reduction model of marijuana policy.
“To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem,” Francis said.