Boston Church Spends $850,000 To Fight Cannabis Legalization
It seems that high-profile anti-cannabis groups are growing like weeds. Just last week, the Boston Archdiocese decided to pump $850,000 into last-minute measures to prevent cannabis legalization, stating that “drug use” is harmful for the Catholic Church’s social service and health programs.
The anti-cannabis Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts is already trying to defeat Question 4, and now the Archdiocese just funneled 50% more of what they’ve already collected. The donation is intended to increase their efforts by intensifying the advertising campaign to dissuade voters from supporting Question 4 in next week’s elections.
“It reflects the fact that the archdiocese holds the matter among its highest priorities,” says Terence Donilon, spokesman of the archdiocese. “It’s a recognition that, if passed, the law would have significantly detrimental impacts on our parishes, our ministries.”
A few weeks before they made the donation, interfaith leaders met to discuss strategies that they could work on to defeat Question 4. Cardinal Sean O’Malley said disclosed that they were only intending to spend a small amount to fund the opposition. But Donilon said that he changed his mind a few days after. “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 adds.
Donilon states that the donation was funded by a discrete central ministry funds, not from parish collections.
Pro-legalization groups intend to create a taxed and regulated market in the state so that cannabis is no longer criminalized, and include statistics to prove their point, showing figures that criminalization is unfairly affecting people of color. On the other hand, the anti-cannabis legalization groups are putting the spotlight on Massachusetts’s opioid addiction and continue to blame cannabis as a gateway drug. They also argue that edibles could trick underage children into trying cannabis.
“The archdiocese has come up with a position that, frankly, we think is based on unfounded assumptions and junk science,” states Jim Borghesani, a spokesperson for YES on 4, a pro-cannabis group. “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,” Borghesani adds.
Poll results have remained consistent, showing that voters will most likely approve Question 4 come November 8. Last week, a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll was released, revealing that support for Question 4 is at 49%. Polls in other states also show that a majority favors legalization for their own marijuana measures.
It still isn’t clear what the archdiocese’s investment to fight legalization will do for Question 4, given their last-minute efforts and considering the fact that airwaves throughout the country are already saturated with discussions on the presidential candidates.
Donilon says that the archdiocese views potential legalization as a menace to their programs including parochial schools and campaigns to eradicate homelessness. “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,” says Donilon. “We’re convinced now more than ever that these programs will take a negative impact. It’s going to have a huge societal impact.”
Many politicians from the state have also been vocal against Question 4, including Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Attorney General Maura Healey. The church contribution today remains to be the single largest donation to fight cannabis legalization, aside from the infamous $1 million contribution of casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson.
The good news: YES on 4 has already raised $6.6 million.
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