Pubdate: Wed, 11 May 2016
Source: Pawtucket Times (RI)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Matt O'Brien, Associated Press


Fears Negative Consequences Pot Could Have on Society

PROVIDENCE (AP) - Rhode Island's Roman Catholic bishop said he wants 
to smell holy incense, not cannabis, in Providence's cathedral and 
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." The essay was published on a diocesan website Tuesday, just 
hours before a hearing on a bill to legalize pot.

Tobin said he's heard about "zombie-like" people who are "completely 
stoned" filling public places in Colorado, where marijuana is legal. 
He said young people already addicted to electronic devices and 
"attached to their virtual umbilical cords" would become more 
detached from society if the drug were legal. He said he was 
disturbed by a recent report of a woman smoking pot in the back of a 
cathedral during a morning service.

Tobin said his viewpoints are purely theoretical and objective 
because he's never smoked pot despite coming of age in the "moral 
wilderness" of the 1960s.

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

Polls have found Rhode Island to be the nation's most Catholic state, 
leading some marijuana legalization advocates to worry about Tobin's 
entrance into the debate.

"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.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom