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Pot-Buyers’ Remorse?

Watching buyers line up outside marijuana apothecaries looking for all the world like a queue forming before the latest Apple store opening provoked a sense of amazement as legal retail recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado on Jan. 1. While arguments in favor of formalizing the U.S. pot market are many, now that the nation’s 420 moment has finally arrived, one cannot help feeling a slight twinge of buyer’s remorse. Is this really a good idea?

Other states now appear poised to end the hypocrisy around marijuana use and a costly and discriminatory prohibition that produced as many judicial victims as it purported to save. But is the nation seeding a generation of psychotropic thrill seekers, gatewaying through a pot haze into a lifetime of more serious addictions? Is it plumping up the psychological pillows for Gen-Rx non-achievers?


The whole nation will be watching Colorado and Washington as this first try at legalization—rationalizing a market that will persist with or without state approval or regulation—unfolds. Parents are already properly concerned about legalized pot’s trickle-down potential. And what will happen when Big Tobacco, eyeing the profit potential of marijuana, shifts its production and marketing might to a new opportunity? Is there a stoned version of Joe Camel already waiting in the wings on Madison Avenue? Attentive regulators and good data will be needed to assess this needed social experiment.

Family-Friendly Francis

“Let them eat; no worries.” Pope Francis spoke these words not in support of the poor in the streets, as is his custom, but on behalf of infants in the Sistine Chapel. On Jan. 12, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Francis described the 32 infants presented for baptism there as “the main focus” and, noting that the children might grow hungry during the lengthy ceremony, he urged the mothers to feel free to breastfeed them during the liturgy. Breastfeeding in public has long attracted controversy in the United States, so many U.S. Catholics have found Francis’ frankness on the matter to be a refreshing acknowledgment of the practice as a natural part of motherhood.

Many also have been encouraged by Francis’ response to one of the couples who presented their child for baptism but reportedly are not married in the church. The baptism of this child by Francis reflects a loving and pastoral decision, but not a remarkable one, canonically speaking. Francis made clear during his homily that he expected parents to pass on the faith, calling it a “duty” and “the most beautiful inheritance they will leave” their children. In his Angelus message, he also expressed hope that the parents’ encounter that day would help them to rediscover their own faith “in a new way.”

Pope Francis’ actions acknowledge the fact that family situations often viewed by the church as anomalies are in many societies the new everyday reality. Recognizing that our world is a complicated and “messy” place, to use Francis’ word, is the first step toward welcoming and comforting today’s nontraditional families in their quest to follow more faithfully the One whose own family situation was anything but ordinary.

Talking Poverty

Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” the worthiness of those initiatives is still being debated. This is puzzling. The poor may still be with us, but without the expansion of government programs for the sick and the elderly in the 1960s, they would be many more in number.

That the nation started talking about poverty was largely due to a Catholic president and a former member of the Catholic Worker movement. In 1962 Michael Harrington, an admirer of Dorothy Day, wrote The Other America, a short, eloquent indictment of a country that let so many of its citizens go hungry. President John F. Kennedy was aware of the book and took up the cause, which was continued by President Johnson. The government arm of the war on poverty was led by Sargent Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family. Joseph A. Califano Jr., like Harrington a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, helped guide the implementation of the Great Society as a policy adviser to President Johnson.

Today a conversation on poverty has started again, inspired in part by the words of Pope Francis. Once again Catholic politicians are in the middle of the discussion. They do not agree on a common approach, but perhaps common ground can be found on two fronts. First, government is not the only answer. Private anti-poverty initiatives can also be very effective. When it comes to fighting poverty, the central question should not be “Who pays for it?” but “Does it work?” Second, when executed thoughtfully, government programs can work. President Johnson’s domestic policy agenda resulted in a substantial drop in the number of Americans living below the poverty line.


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Mike Evans
4 years 11 months ago
As a nation we should be ashamed at our miserly and ungenerous approach to assisting the hungry, homeless, sick, unemployed, frail elderly and poorly educated. Federal assistance is meted out with excruciating regulations and a fine strainer all designed to prevent even one 'unworthy' recipient. Meanwhile, billions are shuffled around in massive ponzi schemes, outright casino gambling, cost overruns and outright fraud in contracting for government projects. Do we really believe people are more important, especially those who are vulnerable and desperately in need? Would the USA suffer it it delayed just one or two nuclear warships?
ed gleason
4 years 11 months ago
To those who point out that the government is a poor fighter against poverty and propose that helping the poor should be left to individual efforts, should be aware that a sandwich transported to the inner city from the outer suburbs where they or their parents fled to get away from the poor..... is guaranteed to be soggy..
Mike Van Vranken
4 years 11 months ago
The Church, you and me, could feed the hungry but we have to believe it first. Then we have to teach it. Instead, we always want to abdicate that responsibility and turn it over to a civil government. Jesus said, "give them some food yourselves." Mt 14:16 He'll proved the miracle if we are generous to give and faithful to believe. We've been deceived thinking it's the government's responsibility. It is ours.
4 years 11 months ago
What is it in my twisted, gnarled, selfcentrered, hedonistic, sex filled, liberal honed, upper-middle class, 85 year old Anglo-Irish-Ukrainian brain, that makes me, a genial, inoffensive man, think that there is something sinister - not very sinister, but a little sinister - in the belief that it is good to take artificial or organic means in order to feel "high"? Tell me, someone, what would a father feel or think if he suddenly came upon a son lighting up a weed in the frontroom and becoming "high" as he drags on the weed? Would the father feel good or would he have a sense of sadness, or of sympathy, for his son who needs to feel "high"?
Vincent Gaitley
4 years 11 months ago
Fighting poverty is not the same as building wealth; however, building wealth is the only solution to poverty. All social programs should be geared with that goal in mind, otherwise they will (look around) fail. The worst enemies of the poor are not the rich, but the armies of social workers, politicians, clergy, and bureaucrats who set upon the poor using them as props in their grand schemes. Like Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Government, and all the other bogie men of leftist rhetoric, Big Poverty may be the cruelest, but truest enemy of the poor.
Kevin McGrath
4 years 11 months ago
"Building wealth" is not the answer to poverty, if that means protecting and extending a situation in which this wealth is concentrated in a few hands. Inequality generates poverty, it does not reduce it. The happiest societies are the ones which are most equal. In Gaudiam Evangelium Pope Francis quotes St John Chrysostom "“Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.
Charles Erlinger
4 years 11 months ago
In regard to the following statement from the editorial, “Today a conversation on poverty has started again, inspired in part by the words of Pope Francis. Once again Catholic politicians are in the middle of the discussion. They do not agree on a common approach, but perhaps common ground can be found on two fronts. First, government is not the only answer. Private anti-poverty initiatives can also be very effective. When it comes to fighting poverty, the central question should not be “Who pays for it?” but “Does it work?” The question as to whether initiatives work touches lightly on what seems to be the real issue, namely, that most of the recommended remedies treat only the symptoms, not the causes. Assuming that there is some agreement in our society that the symptoms causing concern are bad, if not totally intolerable, relieving them is a good thing, but failing to address the causes, or worse, diagnosing the symptoms as the causes, or as self-caused, is not only inexcusable, but embarrassingly shallow. Surely there is more mature social and moral analysis available that can form the basis of rational deliberation that can replace the puerile pronouncements that seem to prevail today.
Tom Wilson
4 years 11 months ago
The post refers to "family situations often viewed by the church as anomalies are in many societies the new everyday reality." It will be a trick for the Pope to acknowledge the existence of so-called "alternative families" without the media jumping on it as approval of such arrangements and a resulting increase in such arrangements now that the Pope has "approved" them. I think the Pope needs to be clear about these alternative families: Most of them involve the tragedy of a child having lost one or both of his/her parents, sometimes intentionally. And the remaining families (unmarried, co-habitating parents) are at a known higher-risk for splitting up and depriving more children of a parent. It is up to the Pope to prevent such arrangements from being the "new everyday reality."
Marie Rehbein
4 years 11 months ago
The concerns about legal marijuana are the same concerns parents should have about their children's exposure to the glamour of alcohol consumption, but don't have because alcohol consumption seems normal to most of us. As with beer, for example, there will be people who just love marijuana and will stop to pick up their allotted quantity every payday. If they smoke it, it will stink up the house or result in second hand exposure to others in the household. I don't think Pandora's box has been opened with this legislation given that a lot of people have been using it for a long time, and a lot of them are teenagers. What could result, is more open discussion about the negative aspects of marijuana use.
James Schwarzwalder
4 years 11 months ago
Lately there has been quite a lot of positive press reflection on President Lyndon B. Johnson's "war on poverty". As a young man in the sixties, my memory of events included the marches of the civil rights movement and some violent backlash, the Vietnam War; the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968; the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; the urban riots in Newark NJ and other cities and being drafted into the U.S. Army. The "war on poverty" was hardly a blip on my radar. Well, what was really memorable and significant in the sixties? I say drafting a disproportionate number of Blacks into the Army and Marines, many of whom wound up in combat units. Many non blacks getting student and other deferments to the draft; U.S. citizens spitting on servicemen and servicewomen returning from Vietnam, a giant antiwar movement, a sitting President choosing to return home to Texas rather than seek reelection; Muhammad Ali's famous quote regarding the Viet Cong and the Negro race; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. opposing the Vietnam War on the Johnny Carson Show saying "people of color shouldn't be killing people of color." If America wants to enshrine President Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty", hey that's freedom of the press! Hat's off to Muhammad Ali, he got a draft deferment for being a minister!
Paul Stolz
4 years 11 months ago
I concede that the War on Poverty resulted in programs which made poor americans slightly more comfortable. They can get food stamps, a monthly check that will keep their heads just above water, and medical care. Thats what we were able to accomplish in the 1960s and that is what we can accomplish now. Personally I am not satisfied with that total lack of progress. It would seem to me that in forty plus years since that War was declared we should see less poverty. Poverty should at least be a transient state as opposed to a chronic one. . Like all wars, the war on poverty can only be won in the trenches. Small private nonprofit agencies need resources and oversight but they also need flexibility. The current big government top down approach to poverty stifles creativity. And to win this war agencies need to be small, creative, and allowed a great deal of flexibility as long as they are achieving results.
Paul Stolz
4 years 11 months ago
as for legalizing weed. i am watching with great amusement. Those folk who are lining up for their weed may be happy happy happy now but just wait. Pretty soon the government will get involved. Which means taxes, taxes and more taxes. A weed tax for "health care" a higher weed tax for "education" and most ironic of all a weed tax to promote education to tell children that weed is bad for you when all we are hearing now is how harmless it is. Oh yes the stoners will be pining for the days when they could just grow their own weed or what a bargin their dealer offered them.


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