Pope Francis recently declared that the legalization of marijuana is a bad idea because addiction is an evil. While I generally support the Pope, and don’t smoke weed, I have to say that he is absolutely wrong on this issue. America has spent over one trillion dollars in the failed war on drugs since 1971, and even Elvis Presley’s request of President Nixon to make him a special agent in the war on drugs didn’t help the effort. Go figure. This is money that could have gone to fight poverty and improve education, but instead it has been spent to no effect in a modern-day attempt at recreating Prohibition and having it work the second time around.
Prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s, and it hasn’t worked in the drug arena either. Playing morality politics about addiction while people starve is, in fact, immoral. Addiction is certainly a problem, but the truth is that an addict denied their substance of choice will simply find another substance of choice – and there are plenty of perfectly legal substances and activities to which one can become addicted. We can and should provide access to treatment for everyone who desires it, but we also need to keep accountability for electing to go into treatment where it belongs – squarely on the shoulders of the addict. With all due respect to the Pope, there is nothing about codependent approaches to addiction – or anything else, for that matter – that ever solved anything.