The Joe Arpaio of Florida Thinks Weed Is 'Killing People Every Day'

A cringeworthy Fox & Friends segment


Chris Urso/ZUMA Press/Newscom

A Florida sheriff believes that marijuana is killing people daily.

No, really. "There absolutely is a price to pay for pot," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd declared on Fox & Friends this morning. "It's not a minor, nonviolent felony. It's ruining families and killing people every day across the United States."

Judd did not provide any evidence to back up his claim, probably because there isn't any. Though it's possible to overdose on weed, the Drug Enforcement Agency said in 2017 that "no deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported." In fact, it's virtually impossible to die from a pot overdose: You'd need to consume 1,500 pounds of the stuff within 15 minutes to O.D., according to David Schmader, author of Weed: The User's Guide.

Marijuana can contribute to death in other ways. People who get behind the wheel after smoking, for instance, run a far higher risk of crashing than people who drove sober. Of course, the same is true of alcohol and other legal substances.

Judd, who was on Fox to discuss a Polk County 12-year-old whose classmates went to the hospital after he gave them weed gummies, didn't let any of that get in the way of his fearmongering. "I've been telling people in the State of Florida for years that whenever you take a substance like marijuana, and you put the [tetrahydrocannabinol] into gummies, it's going to end up in children's hands," he said.

Judd's "What about the children?" argument is common among the opponents of legal marijuana. While it's conceivable that legalized weed can lead to increased underage consumption, that's still not a good reason ban it. As Reason's Jacob Sullum pointed out in 2016: "If Americans were denied access to everything that is appropriate only for adults, we would all be reduced to the status of children."

It's also worth noting that marijuana laws in Florida, where weed is legal for medical but not recreational use, had nothing to do with this most recent incident. Judd even admits that the gummies originated in California, where recreational pot is legal.

But the Fox & Friends hosts had no problem going along with it all. "You haven't even kissed a boy at that point," Ainsley Earhardt said of middle-schoolers being exposed to weed. "Are you seeing more of this…where they're getting their hands on drugs?"

Judd didn't provide a straight answer to that question. But he noted that the 12-year-old criminal mastermind who handed out the gummies is now facing six felony charges. The victims "weren't even teenagers," he added in apparent justification.

At that point, co-host Brian Kilmeade stepped in to rail against the addictive nature of THC. Judd expressed agreement. "We stand here every day in denial thinking that it's not a gateway drug to drugs that's killing people," he said.

Earhardt put it simply: "You don't start on cocaine, you probably start with marijuana and it leads to other things, right?" she asked. "That's absolutely right," Judd responded:

In reality, numerous studies show that opioid addiction does not start with marijuana (Reason's C.J. Ciaramella rounded up six of them back in February). And if that's not enough, you can read Sullum's 2003 comprehensive article on the "gateway drug" myth here.

But it's all par for the course for Judd, who's been the subject of more than one Reason article since assuming office. Last year, Judd threatened to imprison Hurricane Irma refugees with active warrants. In 2016 his department arrested and jailed a man for having a milk crate attached to his bike. In 2015 he publicly mocked the appearances of sex workers arrested for engaging in consensual sex. In 2014 he brought felony charges against two girls—ages 12 and 14—accused of cyberbullying a girl who had committed suicide. (The charges were later dropped.)

Reason's Scott Shackford has accurately labeled Judd "Florida's Joe Arpaio." But unlike Arpaio, who lost a reelection bid two years ago, Judd's reign continues to the present day.