Trump Homeland Security Pick Opposes Legal Marijuana

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But Retired General Is Open To Medical Cannabis

President-elect Donald Trump moved to add another opponent of marijuana legalization to his Cabinet on Wednesday, naming retired Marine General John F. Kelly as his pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

While head of the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Kelly regularly testified before Congress that state marijuana policy reforms in the U.S. made it harder to elicit cooperation in the international war on drugs from Latin American countries.

“Most of the states — countries — I deal with were in utter disbelief that we would, in their opinion, be going in that direction, particularly after 25 years of encouraging them to fight our drug problem in their countries,” he told the House Armed Services Committee in 2014. “They’re very polite to me, but every now and again when they’re not so polite, the term ‘hypocrite’ gets into the discussion… It is hard for me to look them
in the eye and tell them, ‘You really need to, you know, stay shoulder to shoulder with us,’ because they see us in a sense giving in.”

Arguing that enacting marijuana policy reform would lead to increased crime and health care costs, Kelly said, “It’s astounding to me that we are — we’ve just kicked off — the federal government has just kicked off a $100 million program to try to get people to stop smoking tobacco, yet we’re opening up other areas of substance abuse.”

But in an interview with Military Times, Kelly said he’s open to the medical use of cannabis.

“If it has a medical use — and I’m not a doctor, but I’m told it has a medical use — whether it’s veterans or anyone else, if it helps those people, then fine,” he said. “Medicine is medicine.” However, he also told the newspaper that marijuana is a “gateway” that can lead to use of other drugs.

In another 2014 hearing, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kelly said Latin American leaders are “in disbelief when they hear us talking about things like legalization, particularly when we still encourage them to stay shoulder to shoulder with us in the drug fight in their part of the world.”

At an additional hearing before two House committees that year, Kelly said that after Colorado and Washington State voted to legalize marijuana, he was regularly asked about it by international partners. “I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s still against federal law, and the law will be enforced,'” he testified.

But as a result of subsequent Obama administration policies, “It’s my understanding — I’m not a domestic guy — but it’s not being enforced. The word hypocrite comes into the conversation,” Kelly said. “We seemingly are not caring about drugs anymore… They’re pretty nondiplomatic with me,” he said of international leaders. “They wonder, frankly, what the hell we’re doing.”

On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana policies. But he has already named other ardent cannabis law reform opponents to his Cabinet. For example, he selected U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who recently said “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” to be attorney general. And he picked Congressman Tom Price of Georgia, who has regularly voted against medical cannabis amendments, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

As secretary of Homeland Security, Kelly would be responsible for component agencies involved in drug interdiction like Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard. He would also oversee the Transportation Security Administration, which recently clarified that it will allow passengers to carry state-legal marijuana with them on airplane flights as long as local law enforcement agencies don’t say otherwise.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

5 Comments

  1. Another knife in our neck. Thanks America. You voted for these assholes. Now you can suffer the setback to the 1950s right along with us. I hope you’re all happy with the absolute destruction of our Country, our diversity, and people’s rights. Well done.

    • Lawrence Goodwin on

      It’s even worse, Sid, when we consider how the 2016 presidential race was not actually decided by voters, but the ridiculous Electoral College vote tally. For better or worse, history will always show that Hillary Clinton definitely was the voters’ choice by a solid margin. I’d be willing to wager that her choices and actions thus far would’ve been far better in relation to the progress of re-legalized cannabis. Plus, each of these “marihuana”-hating hacks being selected for key Cabinet positions by Donald Trump simply do the bidding of the same major corporations (chemical, pharma, fossil fuel, etc.) that have waged a massive lobbying campaign for almost 80 years to smother all types of cannabis cultivation. Either way, we’re up against one of the most powerful tyrannies in world history, legitimized through completely fraudulent federal and state “marihuana” laws. If the worst case scenario plays out starting after January 21, 2017 (Trump’s hacks unleashing a new round of anti-“marihuana” repression), the legal cannabis industry and advocates everywhere must unite and counter with an equally relentless public resistance.

  2. They don’t want the money train to stop. Same old crap gateway drug line blah blah blah. 1 Trillion dollars latter they haven’t made one bit of difference. Except put non violent cannabis users in jail. I’m a former Marine and this General needs to think about human decency and not where he can get his next buck. President Elect Trump had better think long and hard, as 60 % of America wants recreational cannabis and high 80 to 90’s for medicinal. Think long and hard 2018 Mid terms are coming, and if they come down hard on American people watch how many Republicans get the boot.

  3. The government is so afraid of losing money. Nothing else! Instead of making people take pills that they get addicted to and have to deal with the side effects. Also being careful not to OD from. Then you have alcohol which is legal and people drive and kill people and their families. People destroy their families and cause domestic violence, kids getting beat. Alcohol causing health problems, most of the sickness is causing death. Come on look what your legal stuff does. You don’t have to be that smart !!!!!

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