A federal prosecutor said recently that he expects the marijuana legalization movement to bring about the downfall of society.
In an interview with the substance misuse treatment provider Odyssey House, U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah John Huber claimed that the illicit market is thriving in states that have legalized and said cannabis reform sends the wrong message to young people.
Asked what he expects to come of the state-level legalization push, Huber said it will lead “to a lot more trouble in [adolescents’] lives and it’s going to bring down our society.”
“Well, you get into personal—I guess it’s a DOJ position—but I don’t see much good coming from legalized marijuana,” he said. “I have strong feelings about that here in Utah. I just don’t think that it’s good public policy to somehow give the imprint of ‘this is a good thing or OK thing’ to young people to start.”
Utah voters approved a ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis in 2018.
“We want young people to be focused on job trades, skills and getting education as opposed to sitting in their basement and smoking marijuana,” he added.
Huber also alleged that legal cannabis states have “become havens for organized crime to take advantage of the camouflage of legality.”
“They’re overproducing and black market marijuana is in high demand in the east, so we’ll see cars and truckloads of marijuana going east through Utah and then money coming back west to pay for it,” he said. “Our highway patrol is put at risk to have to make those stops and intervene in those transits. That’s a newer dynamic that has started with the legalization issue on the west coast.”
@OdysseyHouseUT (Utah’s reputed substance abuse treatment provider) asked me to share observations on a number of timely topics: addiction, fentanyl, therapeutic courts, marijuana. Happy to help such an important, redeeming program. https://t.co/SbkLl926yy pic.twitter.com/RARdxf9ZDC
— U.S. Attorney Huber (@USAttyHuber) January 12, 2020
Later in the interview, the conversation turned to the gateway drug theory, with one host suggesting that while it’s not empirically proven that cannabis lead individuals to seek out more dangerous and addictive drugs, that’s what he’s heard anecdotally at the treatment center.
Huber picked up on that point and observed how the host couched his response, arguing that “the marijuana lobby is so strong and powerful that they intimidate us away from really speaking the truth.”
“You’ll have this big fight, political fight, about whether it’s a gateway drug or not, but colloquially, talking to people, how did this happen? And then will start with the same story [of using cannabis first],” he said. “It seems to me it shouldn’t be that controversial when the surgeon general of the United States says it’s a really bad idea for young adults to start with marijuana because their brains are not up for it and it’s going to lead them down a track of addiction that’s going to really be a ball and chain for their life.”
While Huber said his stance is in line with that of the Justice Department, not all prosecutors seem to view reform as the beginning of the end for society. Several U.S. attorneys met for a “marijuana summit” last year, and an attendee told Marijuana Moment that the tone of the panel wasn’t particularly hostile to cannabis. Prosecutors generally described enforcement priorities as not being targeted at individuals but marijuana entities violating both federal and state law.
One former prosecutor who served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota is on the other side of the spectrum from Huber, leading a push to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.