30/07/2013 09:25 BST | Updated 25/09/2013 06:12 BST

World Youth Day: Pope Argues for More Legislation to Reduce Drug Use


Pope Francis has started a war against drug dealers - at least that is what the headlines would have you believe.

The comments came after the leader of the Catholic Church addressed crowds gathered at the Hospital of St Francis in Rio, as part of his visit to the country for World Youth Day.

Ok, so calling it an all out War on Drugs may not be the best summary of the talk. The Holy Father did indeed speak against moves to legalise the use of drugs, something Latin American has been moving towards.

"A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalisation of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America," he said.

"Rather it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future."

When I first heard this my instant reaction was to agree. This is often my default reaction as a Catholic, the Pope speaks, I nod and agree. Mostly this is fine, I genuinely do agree, but this time it was slightly different.

This is a debate I have had with my friends at university. I generally take the stance that better restrictions could lead to less use. I make my points and then they attempt to shoot them down. 'If you put in more rules it only makes it worse,' they would tell me. 'People will always take drugs, by making it harder you push them towards the drug dealers. If you legalise it you take away the secrecy.'

This was a debate that I found myself having again, if not with my fellow pilgrims, but with myself, after the Pope's address. Would legalisation go some way to reducing the use of drugs?

Of course those who are for legalisation are not just arguing for the law to change, and nothing else. People would have to be re-educated, the image of drug use as a 'pleasure' would have to shift dramatically to show the dangers, and degradation. Is this a mental leap we could make?

Having lived in London for a few years I am used to seeing the impact and affect of drug use. It is a horrible sight to see people dependent and driven to desperate measures to continue to the feed their habit. Having seen the reality of the situation, I am keen for something to change. Whether the way to do this is by strengthening the law or not is another question.

The Pope's intentions are good, and he makes a good point, but the method of to how his goal can be achieved just might need some more work. For now, at least he has raised the issue, now it is for us to iron out the details.