By Sam Louwagie, Published: April 21, 2015 at 6:41 PM

Police chiefs from around Minnesota heard a case against the legalization of marijuana Tuesday from a former White House drug policy adviser.

As the summer opening of the state’s medical marijuana program approaches, Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, spoke at the annual Police Chiefs’ Conference in St. Cloud about the dangers of making the drug’s use legal.

Sabet praised the lobbying efforts of law enforcement officials that resulted in a restrictive law that prohibits the smoking of marijuana — allowing medicinal use only in the form of pills, oil or liquid — and allowing prescription for fewer than 10 conditions.

“I think the damage will be limited because the program is limited,” Sabet said after his keynote address. “But we need to get marijuana-based medications in pharmacies prescribed by legitimate doctors, not in stand-alone stores. Minnesota went the route of stand-alone stores, but I’m hoping it will do it a little more responsibly than other states.”

Marijuana policy speech at Police Chiefs’ Conference

Sabet is the president of Smart Approach to Marijuana, an organization dedicated to preventing the formation of a “big marijuana” industry. His speech portrayed the legalization movement as one driven by people seeking to create a new addiction-based industry, similar to the rise of “big tobacco” decades ago. Sabet said while common conception is that “hippies on college campuses” are driving the movement, wealthy lobbyists who will “target the young and vulnerable for profit” are behind it.

And while Sabet admitted non-smoke forms of marijuana can have medical benefit, he said the push for legal medical use is too often acting as cover for recreational use. The vast majority of approved medical users in Colorado, Oregon and Montana report chronic pain to receive approval, Sabet said, and their average age is 32.

While public acceptance of marijuana use increases, Sabet said he is concerned some police officers will feel pressure to go along with strong public sentiment. He hopes to encourage them not to.

“Given the pressure law enforcement is facing on day-to-day basis, it’s easy to say this isn’t worth fighting,” Sabet said after the speech. “What I’ve hoped to convey is that legalization would make their jobs harder. Alcohol is the No. 1 drug involved in non-violent arrests in this country. If marijuana’s treated like alcohol, and as many people use it as use alcohol, that would exponentially increase the problems facing law enforcement.”