Pope Francis condemned the legalisation of recreational drugs as a flawed and failed experiment when he addressed a conference on drug enforcement in Rome today.
Francis added his voice to a debate which is gather pace as countries from Uruguay to the United States experiment with the legalisation and de-criminalisation of drugs.
The Pope told delegates that even limited steps to legalise recreational drugs “are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects”.
Likewise, he said, providing addicts with drugs offered only “a veiled means of surrendering to the phenomenon”.
“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible,” he said. “The problem of drug use is not solved with drugs!”
Francis has met addicts on several occasions and has described drug addiction as evil, When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires he devoted much of his pastoral care to addicts.
Last month Argentina’s neighbour Uruguay cleared the way for legal sales of marijuana in pharmacies. Its recreational use has been legalised in the US states of Colorado and Washington, while Oregon may vote on the issue this year.
With those successes, the marijuana legalisation movement is gaining traction from the Americas to Europe and North Africa, where officials are eager to pursue policies that focus on promoting public health rather than battling drug traffickers.
Critics point out that the criminalisation of the drug trade has fuelled crime and led to the creation of powerful criminal syndicates which destabilise states and impoverish their people.
But Francis emphasised that the problems underlying drug use must be addressed, including social inequality and lack of opportunities.
To reject illegal drugs, he said, “one has to say yes to life, yes to love, yes to others, yes to education, yes to greater job opportunities. If we say yes to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.”