Kelly Signals Federal Crack Down On Marijuana: ‘Dangerous Gateway Drug’

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly spoke in hard terms against the “dangers” of marijuana Tuesday, backing off softer comments he recently made about the substance.

Speaking at at George Washington University, Kelly diverged from more positive remarks he made about marijuana Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Marijuana remains a “dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs,” Kelly said Tuesday, echoing the sentiments of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of legalization. He also added that combating marijuana will play a part in their efforts to curb illegal immigration.

Kelly’s earlier comments on “Meet the Press” sparked speculation there may be disagreement within the Trump administration on marijuana policy. His speech Tuesday appeared to be an effort to shut those rumors down.

“Its use and possession is against federal law and until the law is changed by the United States Congress, we in DHS, along with the rest of the federal government, are sworn to uphold all the laws that are on the books,” Kelly said Tuesday. “Finally, ICE will continue to use marijuana possession, distribution and convictions as essential elements as they build their deportation, removal apprehension packages for targeted operations against illegal aliens.”

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. He also stated his belief that the war on drugs can only be won by addressing domestic demand, particularly for heroin.

“Yeah, marijuana is not a factor in the drug war,” Kelly told Chuck Todd Sunday. “The solution is not arresting a lot of users. The solution is a comprehensive drug demand reduction program in the United States that involves every man and woman of goodwill.”

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security disputed the notion Kelly’s statements mark a big shift in an emailed statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday. Kelly’s remarks on Meet the Press Sunday were referring to the national drug addiction crisis and how the domestic focus should be on narcotics rather than marijuana, he said. But he added that Kelly has previously acknowledged (before becoming DHS secretary) that any illicit drug crossing the southern border — including marijuana — can help fuel violence and should be dealt with.

“He also made clear today that use and possession of marijuana is against federal law and until the law is changed by the U.S. Congress, we in DHS are sworn to uphold all the laws on the books,” the spokesman told TheDCNF.

Marijuana advocates likely won’t know the true intentions of the Department of Justice 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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