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Pope condemns efforts to legalize marijuana

Francis says the legalization moves in Uruguay and the US states of Colorado and Washington are bound to fail

Pope Francis on Friday condemned the legalization of recreational drugs as a flawed and failed experiment, lending his voice to a debate that is raging from the United States to Uruguay and beyond.

Francis told delegates at a drug-enforcement conference in Rome that even limited attempts to legalize recreational drugs "are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects."

The pope's comments come on the heels of Jamaica's decision last week to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. While not an all-out legalization of pot, the move was seen as a milestone in a country where the plant is grown and sold widely.

Francis also said that providing addicts with drugs doesn't solve the problem and is "rather a veiled means of surrendering to the phenomenon," he said.

"Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs!"

The pope's comments did not seem to touch on the issue of a drug war in the U.S. and beyond that has raged for decades with little to show for it other than prisons overcrowded with people given harsh sentences for low-level drug offenses. 

Francis has frequently railed against the "evil" of drug addiction and has met with addicts on several occasions. When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he similarly devoted much of his pastoral care to addicts.

Just last month, Uruguay — next door to Francis' native Argentina — approved selling marijuana cigarettes in pharmacies. Recreational marijuana is now legal in the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington, and Oregon may put the matter to a vote later this year.

Al Jazeera and the Associated Press

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