Catholic Church in Argentina opposes move to legalize recreational marijuana


ROME – Earlier this month, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez said the country needs to have the debate over the legalization of recreational marijuana, a move the Catholic commission that works with addictions and drug dependency called “hypocrisy.”

It’s hypocritical, the bishops’ conference commission wrote, to talk about the legalization of marijuana “in the context of poverty and destitution experienced by hundreds of thousands of adolescents and young people who cannot aspire to serious training or a decent job, the result of decades of ignoring it.”

They also argue that it’s hypocritical to talk about legalizing marijuana when those living in the country’s poorest neighborhoods have no water, sewage, electricity, education or spaces for recreation.

According to the latest estimates, close to 70 percent of Argentina’s children and youth live under the poverty line, and over three million people live in the country’s more than 4,000 slums.

RELATED: In slums of Buenos Aires, separation of church and state is a sham

The Church’s Commission for Addictions oversees several dozen Hogares de Cristo – or Christ Homes – in Argentina, the first of which was funded by then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, in 2008.

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio holds the hands of a woman and girl during Holy Thursday Mass in 2008 at a church in a poor section of Buenos Aires, Argentina, when he opened the first Hogar de Cristo, dedicated to helping people battle addictions. (Credit: Enrique Garcia Medina/Reuters via CNS.)

Located in the heart of some of the largest “emergency neighborhoods” (the term the prelates are using to replace the traditional “slums of misery”), they have helped thousands of people overcome addiction. These centers give the Catholic Church a first-hand experience of what people who suffer addiction go through.

“Those of us who live and work in the working-class neighborhoods – and we are not tourists there – know the damage that alcohol and marijuana cause to children, adolescents and young people abandoned to their fate by a liberal State,” the statement says. “Without much help for them to develop their lives as God intended, they end up trapped in drugs that will condition them for life.”

Among other drugs, those living in the slums often resort to paco, a highly addictive mixture of raw cocaine cut with chemicals, glue, crushed glass and rat poison.

Those who consume paco are known as muertos vivientes, the living dead. Considered the cheapest illegal drug available in the streets of Buenos Aires, paco is what remains from the narco-kitchens producing cocaine bound for the United States and Europe.

“Is the proposal to legalize marijuana when we still do not have places of recovery for the thousands of children who are disappearing because of the consumption of paco?” the prelates asked in their statement.

“The political class follows an agenda that is not of this time in the popular neighborhoods nor of the middle classes already resigned to their decadence,” says the statement. “That is why the same people who created [poverty] try to give lessons on poverty or talk about the recreational use of cannabis as if we were a Nordic country.”

Taking into account that the country is headed towards mid-term elections, the commission urges the government and the opposition to discuss the “real way in which these young people can have access to a decent job in the poorest neighborhoods,” adding that to not worry about how to create new jobs is also hypocritical.

The Argentine Church’s Commission on Addictions has spoken many times about this subject, but according to them, the economic and political interests prevail, funded by what they called the cannabis lobby.

“The bourgeois look of official and opposition sectors has nothing to do with an integral and popular sense of life,” they argued.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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