- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Catholic church in Boston is dumping nearly a million dollars towards defeating a ballot measure that could legalize marijuana across Massachusetts as poll numbers suggests pot proponents will likely prevail after the Nov. 8 vote.

With less than two weeks until Election Day, the Boston Globe reported Friday that the local archdiocese is spending $850,000 in an effort to beat the ballot measure known as Question 4.

If the measure is approved, Massachusetts will have to establish a framework for regulating and taxing marijuana. As of Thursday, the results of a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll suggest 49 percent of respondents support legalizing marijuana compared to 42 percent opposed.

Catholic leaders across Massachusetts formally spoke out earlier this month in opposition of Question 4, writing in an open letter that the church believes pot use “inflicts grave damage on human health and life,” and “is a grave offense.” As Election Day nears, however, the church is reinforcing that stance with a sizable investment.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley had planned to spend a smaller amount fighting Question 4, but in recent days decided the effort was worth a larger sum, archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon told the Globe on Friday.

“The more he thought about this and prayed about this, he thought this was the right thing to do because it directly impacts the people we’re trying to help,” he said.

“It reflects the fact that the archdiocese holds the matter among its highest priorities,” Mr. Donilon explained. “It’s a recognition that, if passed, the law would have significantly detrimental impacts on our parishes, our ministries.”

If approved, the archdiocese believes legal weed will upend various services operated by the Catholic Church ranging from food pantries to parochial schools, the newspaper reported.

“We provide extensive programs, and the church has historically spoken out on issues that are both a public policy matter and also impact the wider society in terms of serving those who are truly in need,” Mr. Donilon said. “We’re convinced now more than ever that these programs will take a negative impact. It’s going to have a huge societal impact.”

The $850,000 will come from an unrestricted central ministry fund, not parish collection baskets, and will likely be allocated toward existing ad campaigns opposed to Question 4, according to the Globe’s report.

In addition to fighting against the clock, however, the Catholic Church faces a significant challenge in going up against the deep pockets of legal weed supporters. A group that favors the ballot measure, YES on 4, has raised $6.6 million so far, according to state campaign finance records.

“The archdiocese has come up with a position that, frankly, we think is based on unfounded assumptions and junk science,” YES on 4 spokesman Jim Borghesani told The Globe. “But they can spend their money any way they wish.”

“What I think the archdiocese is missing is the terrible harm that (marijuana) prohibition has done to people of color, to people who have chosen a substance that is less dangerous than alcohol and have had their lives ruined because they’ve been arrested,” he added.

Massachusetts is one of five states where voters next month will decide whether or not to legalize recreational pot, while four others will weigh whether or not to establish medical marijuana programs. Recreational weed has been decriminalized for adults in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. in recent years, while medical marijuana programs are currently in place in 25 states and the nation’s capital.

Nationwide, the results of a poll undertaken recently by the Pew Research Center suggested 57 percent of the country favors legalizations, compared to 37 percent opposed.

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