In an op-ed published Monday, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Kurt Alme called on voters to “review” and “understand” the “serious ramifications” of the ballot initiative to legalize cannabis. The op-ed relies on old “Reefer Madness” tropes including gateway theory, addiction, and the unsubstantiated claims that legalization leads to a rise in traffic fatalities.
In interviews with Reuters, two former federal prosecutors said Alme’s decision to publish his opinion on a state ballot question weeks before the election was unusual.
William Nettles, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina went so far as to call the move “an abuse of authority” and described it as “abnormal behavior” for a sitting state prosecutor.
Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, described Alme’s decision to weigh in on the question as “highly unusual and improper.”
A spokeswoman for Alme’s office, Clair Johnson Howard, defended the prosecutor’s decision, telling Reuters that the op-ed “was intended to educate voters on an issue that significantly impacts the enforcement of federal criminal law and is a topic about which U.S. Attorney’s Offices have much information.” The op-ed does stop short of calling on voters to reject the proposal.
Alme’s op-ed also claims that cannabis use – specifically smoking – “can increase the risk of severe complications from COVID-19” despite several studies that have found THC and CBD could be used as tools in mitigating cytokine storms, a potentially fatal symptom of the disease.
Montana is one of five states voting on initiatives to legalize cannabis medically or recreationally this November. Cannabis remains outlawed federally, although U.S. attorneys do not enforce federal law in states that have passed legalization laws as long as the businesses comply with state statutes.
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