The Drug Enforcement Administration's chief of operations says the legalization of marijuana at the state level is "reckless and irresponsible" and warned a movement across the country to decriminalize the sale of the substance will have severe consequences, The Washington Post reports
The comments by James Capra were made Wednesday before a congressional hearing focused on use of the drug in Afghanistan. They marked the DEA's most outspoken criticism of the movement to legalize marijuana, which achieved successes in the states of Colorado
At least four states
as well as the District of Columbia are planning similar initiatives to legalize the drug in 2014.
"It scares us," Capra said. "Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again."
The Justice Department said last summer that it would not challenge state laws passed in Colorado and Washington, even though the sale and use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Post reports.
Capra said, however, that agents are already concerned about the legal sales
of the drug in Colorado which began on Jan. 1., saying, "There are more dispensaries in Denver than there are Starbucks. 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."
Referring to an experience he had at a recent global summit on counter-narcotics in Moscow when he was asked by international counterparts to explain America's position, he said, "I don't have an answer for them."
A majority of Americans believe marijuana use should be legalized nationwide, according to a recent CNN/ORC survey
, with 55 percent saying they support legalization compared to 44 percent who believe it should remain illegal.
Capra nonetheless worries about the long-term consequences of the national mood on marijuana which experts believe is a gateway to more dangerous drugs, according to the Post.
"This is a bad experiment. It's going to cost us in terms of social costs," Capra said.
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