PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island’s Catholic bishop says he wants to smell holy incense, not cannabis, in Providence’s cathedral, and has warned state lawmakers against transporting young people to “the land of oblivion” by legalizing marijuana.

Bishop Thomas Tobin shared his opinions in an essay titled “Nope to Dope,” published on Tuesday hours before a hearing before the state legislature on a bill to legalize pot.

Tobin says he’s heard about “zombie-like” people who are “completely stoned” filling public places in Colorado, where marijuana is legal. He says young people already addicted to electronic devices and “attached to their virtual umbilical cords” would become more detached if the drug were legal.

Tobin added that his viewpoints are purely theoretical, because he’s never smoked pot.

“I should emphasize that my observations here are from a purely theoretical viewpoint,” he wrote. “Although I came of age in the moral wilderness of the 1960’s, when just about everything was on the table, I’ve never smoked marijuana – or anything else for that matter.”

“For me,” Tobin wrote, “‘Puff The Magic Dragon’ was a song about childhood, nothing more.’’

The reference is to a 1963 pop song by the group Peter, Paul and Mary that was widely taken as a reference to marijuana use, although the authors repeatedly have rejected that interpretation, describing it as an “urban legend.”

Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Tobin wrote in his “Without a Doubt” column that  “the use of drugs inflicts very grave damage  on human health and life.”

“Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense,” he wrote.

Tobin quoted Pope Francis, who said, “Let me state in the clearest terms possible. Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise….No to every type of drug use.’’

“In opening the door to drug use even a little bit, we have so much to lose and absolutely nothing to gain,” he wrote.

“I don’t think it’s a deal breaker,” said Jared Moffat, director of legalization advocacy group Regulate Rhode Island. “We’ve seen the legislature go against Bishop Tobin’s social views and his social conservatism before on issues like marriage equality. It’s certainly not an insurmountable obstacle.”

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, said Tuesday “there’s more questions than answers at this point” about the marijuana legislation, but not because of Tobin’s essay.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearing testimony on the bill Tuesday evening. Ruggerio said it’s unlikely for the bill to pass before the Rhode Island General Assembly adjourns sometime next month.

Other New England states also are considering bills to legalize marijuana, and Massachusetts and Maine could put ballot questions before voters in November.

“The bishop makes some very valid points,” Ruggerio said. “We have to vet it very carefully, study the issue, and study how it’s happened in other states.”

Tobin has a history of taking strong positions on socially controversial matters.

In 2009, former Rep. Patrick Joseph Kennedy claimed that Tobin has barred him from Communion over his pro-choice voting record, although Tobin said Kennedy was referring to a confidential exchange from years earlier.

When U.S. President Barack Obama announced support for same-sex marriage, Tobin described it as a “sad day in American history.”

Polls have found Rhode Island to be the nation’s most Catholic state.

(Crux staff also contributed to this report.)