DEA Chief James Capra Speaks Out Against States Legalizing Pot

| by Allison Geller

The chief of operations federal Drug Enforcement Agency criticized the dominoing legalization of marijuana at the state level, stating he is “scared” of the consequences of legally sanctioned recreational pot.

“There are more dispensaries in Denver than there are Starbucks,” James L. Capra said, as reported by the Washington Post. “The idea somehow people in our country have that this is somehow good for us as a nation is wrong. It’s a bad thing.”

Capra addressed the issue when a senator asked him how the DEA felt about liberalized statewide marijuana laws during a hearing on drug cultivation in Afghanistan.

“It scares us,” Capra responded. “Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again.”

Capra expressed his discomfort with partnering other countries' law enforcement agencies in worldwide anti-drug initiatives, considering the evident hypocrisy in his own country.

“Almost everyone looked at us and said: Why are you doing this [while] pointing a finger to us as a source state?” he said of a recent counter-narcotics summit in Moscow. “I don’t have an answer for them.”

In general the federal government has chosen to turn a blind legal eye to state laws. The Justice Department decided not to challenge Colorado and Washington’s laws last summer, while the Obama administration has indicated that it won’t sic the feds on regular recreational users in those states where pot is legal.

Not everyone on the DEA has such a hardliner stance against pot. Patrick Moen, a former drug-busting federal agent in Oregon, has now turned to the dark side: he took a job at Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that invests in the marijuana industry. Another Oregon former DEA official now works as a marijuana business consultant, parlaying their experience in the business of drug busting to better advise the industry.

More and more states are considering measures to legalize recreational marijuana, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and the District of Columbia. Public opinion towards marijuana has largely shifted, with Gallup reporting that a clear majority of Americans (58%) favoring the drug’s legalization.

Sources: Washington Post, Gallup