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.

NEXT: Boston Suburb Fights Drunkenness by Requiring People to Buy Bigger Bottles of Booze

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  1. >>>”You don’t start on cocaine…

    no, Ritalin.

  2. You’d need to consume 1,500 pounds of the stuff within 15 minutes to O.D.

    Challenge accepted!

    1. Besides that being physically impossible, I wish someone would ask Sheriff Numbskull to please be name any substance, any food, no matter how healthy, which consuming 1500 lbs of in 15 minutes won’t result in immediate death.

  3. “It’s not a minor, nonviolent felony. It’s ruining families and killing people every day across the United States.”

    Perhaps he’s referring to gangbangers offing each other over illegal-pot disputes?

    1. Maybe cops killing stoned people for failure to obey, or marijuana users being killed in jail or prison.

      1. “Stop resisting!”

    2. Nah, that’s contract enforcement when you have no access to the court system.

  4. “The Joe Arpaio of Florida”

    Don’t be an asshole, Arpaio is historically bad and much worse than this guy.

    Make no mistake, this guy is awful, but the comparison is silly.

  5. Joe Seyton thinks fried chicken, Newport’s, funyuns, and malt liquor are representative of black people.

    1. Either that or he knows that they are common stereotypes of black people in American culture.

  6. The guy thinks wearing 4 stars on his collar is appropriate, you can safely ignore anything else he thinks.

    Christ, what an asshole.

  7. And don’t get him started on that rock and/or roll music those kids are listening to! Devil worshippin’ music, that’s what that is! And you know what that leads to: drinking beer!

  8. …just when you thought people in Florida couldn’t get any more stupid…

  9. “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.”

    They seem to think 12 year olds are 6 year olds. Like 12 year olds are the target market for gummy bears.

    Though a pro tip from a stoner friend of mine – inexperienced pot users should *not* start with edibles. Effects are delayed and prolonged by edibles. It’s easy to think it’s having no effect and take too much, and then be stuck with the unpleasant effects for a long time.

  10. The gateway drug theory, that a unique pharmacological effect of cannabis causes the use of hard drugs, has been discredited by the many peer reviewed studies which have examined it. It is largely based on the simple fact that many hard drug users used cannibbis before hard drugs. By this metric alcohol and tobacco are the true gateway drugs as nearly all try these before cannabis, and both are associated with a greater likelihood of other drug use. [Joy et al. 1999; Morral et al. 2002; Cleveland HH & Wiebe RP. 2008; O’Connell TJ & Bou-Matar CB 2007; Wen et al. 2014; Tristan et al. 2012; Tarter et al. 2006; Van Gundy K & Rebellon CJ. 2010; Vanyukov et al. 2012; Barry et al. 2016]
    If cannabis prohibition has any effect, it makes cannabis a gateway to other illicit drugs. Imagine if beer merchants also sold heroin, cocaine and meth. This is the situation that the prohibition of cannabis creates for its consumers. It places a very popular substance into these otherwise unpopular markets, strengthening them and expanding their reach. Also, when people realize that they were for the most part lied to about the negative effects of cannabis, respect for all laws, especially drug laws, is eroded. This further increases the likelihood of experimentation with other illicit drugs.

    1. There are many factors that influence who will use which drug, when and how often. These factors include genetics, environment, personal factors, and likely others yet to be discovered. Given a pre-existing interest in recreational substances combined with a willingness to try illicit substances, cannabis is simply, and predictably, the first illicit substance encountered. This does not mean that cannabis caused later drug use, cannabis use was simply a result of the same influencing factors as hard drug use. The “gateway theory” is a simple observation of a typical sequence and has little to no utility in reducing drug abuse. Efforts to prevent hard drug abuse are undermined and resources misspent when gateway theory is accepted as valid. A recent extensive review on the subject concluded that: “The promotion of the erroneous gateway theory ultimately does the public a disservice, including the hindering of intervention.”[Vanyukov et al. 2012]

  11. Colorado legalized recreational cannabis use in Dec 2012 (Jan 2014 for recreational sales). It has been legal medicinally for over a decade. They have not experienced the surge in teen use predicted by prohibitionists:

    For Colorado teens 12-17 SAMHSA reports these changes:

    Marijuana Use in the Past Month:
    2012-2013: 11.16%
    2013-2014: 12.56%
    2014-2015: 11.13%
    2015-2016: 9.08% [a]

    Past Month Colorado Middle School Cannabis Use
    2011: 6.0%
    2013: 5.1%
    2015: 4.4%
    [SOURCE: Overview Of The 2011 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey: Middle School; Healthy Kids Colorado Survey Middle School Overview of 2013 Data, 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey Results]

    Percentage of Middle School students who feel it would easy to get marijuana if they wanted
    2013: 16.2%
    2015: 15.5%
    [SOURCE: 2013 and 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey Results]

    Colorado School Drug Expulsions:
    2011-2012: 718
    2012-2013: 614
    2013-2014: 535
    2014-2015: 446
    2015-2016: 142
    2016-2017: 97

    Colorado School Drug Violators Referred to Law Enforcement:
    2011-2012: 1,951
    2012-2013: 1,921
    2013-2014: 1,823
    2014-2015: 1,160
    2015-2016: 311
    2016-2017: 232

    Colorado School Drug Suspensions:
    2011-2012: 4,561
    2012-2013: 4,319
    2013-2014: 4,714
    2014-2015: 4,529
    2015-2016: 1,579
    2016-2017: 1,006

    [SOURCE: Colorado Department of Education – 10-Year Trend Data: Colorado State Suspension and Expulsion Incidents]

    1. Colorado School Dropout Rate:
      2011-2012: 2.9% (12,256 dropouts reported)
      2012-2013: 2.5% (10,664 dropouts reported)
      2013-2014: 2.4% (10,546 dropouts reported
      2014-2015: 2.5% (11,114 dropouts reported
      2015-2016: 2.3% (10,530 dropouts reported
      2016-2017: 2.3% (10,421 dropouts reported
      [SOURCE: Colorado Department of Education – Dropout Data for 2011-16 – Historical Overview]

      Washington State legalized recreational cannabis in December of 2012. Legal sales began in July of 2014.

      For Washington teens 12-17 SAMHSA reports these changes:

      Marijuana Use in the Past Month:
      2011-2012: 9.45%
      2012-2013: 9.81%
      2013-2014: 10.06%
      2014-2015: 9.17%
      2015-2016: 7.93%
      [SOURCE: SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health]

  12. Those who believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty should embrace the ending of this irrational, un-American cannabis prohibition. It should be the cornerstone of current GOP policy.

    About half of the U.S. population has tried cannabis, at least 15% use it regularly, over 80% of high school seniors have reported cannabis “easy to get” for decades. Those who want to use cannabis heavily already are. Prohibition does little or nothing to prevent problematic use. In many cases prohibition makes cannabis usage problematic where it would not have been otherwise, be it light, moderate, or heavy usage. For the most part, cannabis prohibition only successfully prohibits effective regulation.

    A few issues created by prohibition: there are no quality controls to reduce contaminants (harmful pesticides, molds, fungus, other drugs), there is no practical way to prevent regular underage sales, billions in tax revenue are lost which can be used for all substance abuse treatment, underground markets for all drugs are empowered as a far more popular substance is placed within them expanding their reach and increasing their profits, criminal records make pursuing many decent careers difficult, police and court resources are unnecessarily tied up by pursuing and prosecuting victimless ‘crimes’, public mistrust and disrespect for our legal system, police, and government is increased, which can be devastating to our country.

    1. Prohibition is also very expensive, though, a cash cow for a number of powerful groups such as those related to law enforcement and the prison industry. These organizations have powerful lobbies and influence that perpetuate a failed drug policy through ignorance, fear, disinformation and misinformation. This ensures an endless supply of lucrative contracts, grants and subsidies from the government and its taxpayers to support their salaries, tools of the trade, and other expenses. Cash, property and other assets from civil forfeiture laws also significantly fatten their coffers while often violating civil rights.
      America was built on the principles of freedom and liberty. In some cases there are extreme circumstances that warrant intervention with criminal law. In the case of mind-altering drugs we have already set this precedent with alcohol. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others. If we are to have justice, then the penalties for using, possessing and selling cannabis should be no worse than those of alcohol.

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    Goodbye, cruel world. You won’t have me to kick around anymore. (Me and Nixon.) I’ve smoked three joints and I can see the Other Side now. It’s dark and mysterious and smells like Beirut. One more doob should put me over. Let’s see . . . Maui Waui is just too pedestrian. It’ll have to be an Afghan Skunk / Gorilla Glue No. 4 blend.

  16. This what happens when apparently well meaning people who don’t know their asses from page eight presume to make broad judgments on behalf of those who do. Their perspective is important, of course, but not the final word.

    As with the “gun control” controversy, it isn’t the weed that is killing people, it’s the PEOPLE. I’m not advocating for weed. I’m a retired substance abuse counselor and am aware of how it affects people. Does it do harm? Of course it does, and more so with some than with others. But demonizing it and attempting to exercise control with oppressive laws and swat teams is asinine and I’ve always said so. Extensive public education and reasonable REGULATION based on legitimate research would accomplish far more.

  17. And never a mention of the reality that drug laws were enacted to target Chinese, Blacks (The New Southern Menace) and Mexicans. Not all at once but certainly not in the interest of public health or safety. Richard Nixon enhanced the laws to target young democrats. “Crack” cocaine was not called but could be called The New Northern Menace. Each drug was vilified as being the substance that caused the “raping of your white women”. The typical media frenzy is always employed.
    If the Confederate Battle Flag is a symbol of hate then drug laws are the granddaddy and King of the hate symbols. Look this up as the writer here did not bother nor did the writer explain the reference to Joe Arpaio assuming we know all about sheriff Joe. No we don’t and he is a story that needs to be front and center and then put the man on trial, after which drop all immunity for law enforcement.
    The ignorance about drugs is no accident but propagandized to the hilt.
    I suggest you all research the truth and you will learn something such as death from heroin is rare. If that does not cause you to stop and say “What?!” then continue on with the racism and witch hunts or even build a private prison as it will make you wealthy. Even police are wising up to what damage laws cause that drug use does not. I would prefer the company of someone on illegal drugs over a minute with an insufferable alcoholic any day.

    1. Which by the way alcohol usually is the cause of death when mixed with heroin but only never reported as such. has gotten lame very quickly and I hope it is not the voice of libertarians. Rewrite this article and get some facts into it instead of an amateurs opinion. That sheriff is as bad as any crappy “journalist”.
      Now since assumption is a game here you can now guess my age, occupation and drug(s) of choice…

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