Homeland Security Chief Says Marijuana 'Not a Factor in the Drug War'

April 16th 2017

Adeshina Emmanuel

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly recently said something in regards to the government's intentions for marijuana that seems to clash with other Trump Administration officials, including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.


During an interview on "Meet the Press" Sunday, Kelly was engaged in a discussion about what the government intended to do to clamp down on illegal drugs flowing into the United States.

He said the Department of Homeland Security is concentrating on the trafficking of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, which combined to spur about 52,000 people in 2015, according to Kelly, The Huffington Post reported.

Marijuana "is not a factor in the drug war," Kelly said.

He went on to say:

"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. And then rehabilitation. And then law enforcement. And then getting at the poppy fields and the coca fields in the South.”

Kelly's stance seems to diverge from Sessions' take on how law enforcement should deal with illegal drugs.


"Experts are telling me there's more violence around marijuana than one would think," Sessions said in February, according to the Associated Press. The AP noted that the comments from Sessions echoed White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's statements claiming that the U.S. Department of Justice Department would bolster enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana.

"I am definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana," Sessions said. "But states, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not."

Studies have yet to connect legalization of pot with any uptick in violent crime rates, despite anecdotal arguments otherwise from some law enforcement officials. "You can't sue somebody for a drug debt. The only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that," Sessions told reporters, according to the AP.

Other than how he views marijuana in context of Homeland Security's efforts, Kelly also discussed immigration, noting that something as small as a DUI could prompt deportation proceedings.

Think Progress delves into the details of how the Department of Homeland Security's approach differs under Trump in comparison to the Obama administration:

"Kelly’s interview is the latest affirmation that the Trump administration will not treat the undocumented population along the same priority system that the Obama administration did in the past. The Obama administration previously set guidance memos for ICE agents to detain and deport immigrants based on criteria such as whether they are parents of U.S. citizens, relatives of military personnel, or even whether they were brought to the country as children."