Cannabis in America

Boston Archdiocese Donates $850,000 to Fight Weed Measure

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The Boston Archdiocese gave an $850,000 donation toward the fight against legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts last Friday. On November 8, voters will weigh in on a ballot measure called Question 4, a proposal that would create a legal framework for recreational marijuana in the state. Massachusetts is one of nine states scheduled to vote on measures legalizing weed in some form, either medically or recreationally.

A spokesman for the archdiocese, Terry Donilon, said the chunk of change “reflects the fact that the archdiocese holds this matter as among the highest priorities,” along with social services like food pantries, health clinics, counseling programs, addiction treatment, housing assistance, and support for immigrants. The donation increased opposition funding by 40 percent, though it does not constitute the largest single donation to date. That honor goes to the billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who handed over $1 million to the opposition effort a few weeks ago.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, a close friend of Pope Francis and the leader of the Boston Archdiocese, has repeatedly voiced his opposition to legalizing weed in the Bay State, saying pot “causes people to have problems with memory, problems with reasoning, and other health problems.” He also believes cannabis can be a gateway to more destructive drugs, saying people are “looking for a higher high, so they’ll go onto heroin or cocaine or some other drug that’s even more dangerous.” Many scientists say there is simply not enough evidence to support whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Catholic Church is opposing legalizing recreational marijuana. But what is unusual here is the extracurricular act of donating money to the opposition effort. According to The Atlantic, the Boston Archdiocese lost $20.5 million in operating income from 2014 to 2015. Donilon told The Atlantic that the $850,000 did not come from donations, but rather a “central ministry” fund.

O’Malley is not the only prominent public figure in Boston to oppose the ballot measure. Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA), Attorney General Maura Healey, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh wrote an op-ed in March for the Boston Globe, saying “marijuana is not safe.” They continued: “Regular use that starts in adolescence has been shown to impair brain development, shrink school and career outcomes, and even lower IQ.”  

But the latest polls suggest that voters will pass the measure on November 8 anyway. According to a recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll, 48.8 percent of respondents said they would vote to legalize recreational marijuana; 42.4 percent said they would not, and 7.8 percent said they were undecided.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at



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