Trump Homeland Security Pick Opposes Legal Marijuana

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.

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