VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis condemned the legalization of recreational drugs as a flawed and failed experiment as he lent his voice Friday to a debate that is raging from the United States to Uruguay.
Francis told delegates attending a Rome drug enforcement conference that even limited steps to legalize recreational drugs "are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects."
Likewise, Francis 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 described drug addiction as evil and met addicts on several occasions. When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he devoted much of his pastoral care to addicts.
Last month Argentina's neighbor Uruguay cleared the way for legal sales of marijuana cigarettes in pharmacies. Recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington, while Oregon may vote on the issue this year.
With those successes, the marijuana legalization 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.
But Francis emphasized Friday that the problems underlying drug use must be addressed, including social inequality and lack of opportunities for the young.
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."
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