Trump Administration Sharply Divided On Marijuana’s Role In The War On Drugs

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Top officials in the Trump administration are taking sharply divergent positions on the issue of federal marijuana policy and its role in fueling the war on drugs.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday he believes marijuana plays no role in the current war on drugs, instead singling out methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine as the primary problems. His statements are in line with previous remarks where he spoke positively about the benefits of medical marijuana for certain patients, including veterans. Kelly also stated his belief that the war on drugs can only be won by addressing domestic demand, particularly for heroin, reports The Washington Post.

The comments stand in stark contrast to those from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is critical of legalization efforts in the U.S. “There’s more violence around marijuana than one would think,” he remarked in February. He is currently reviewing the Cole Memorandum, a set of guidelines established in 2013 that direct DOJ to focus marijuana enforcement efforts on violent crimes and distribution in states without legalization laws. He recently dismissed preliminary research showing marijuana can serve as an alternative painkiller and aid those with opioid addictions.

Advocates launched heaving criticism at Sessions and the Department of Justice in March after he said marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

Kelly previously served as the head of U.S. Southern Command, often dealing with narcotics smuggling from Central and South America and the Caribbean. Unlike Sessions, who is his focusing his efforts on law enforcement and increased criminal penalties to deal with the opioid crisis, Kelly advocates prioritizing treatment and rehabilitation to address U.S. demand for narcotics. (RELATED: Critics Blast Sessions As ‘Anti-Facts’ For Comparing Marijuana To Heroin)

“Yeah, marijuana is not a factor in the drug war,” Kelly told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “It’s three things. Methamphetamine. Almost all produced in Mexico. Heroin. Virtually all produced in Mexico. And cocaine that comes up from further south.”

“The solution is not arresting a lot of users,” Kelly added. “The solution is a comprehensive drug demand reduction program in the United States that involves every man and woman of goodwill. And then rehabilitation. And then law enforcement. And then getting at the poppy fields and the coca fields in the south.”

Marijuana advocates likely won’t know the true intentions of the Justice Department regarding legal pot until July, when the task force reviewing the department’s policy will give Sessions recommendations on how to proceed.

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