John Kelly, the United States Homeland Security Secretary, labeled cannabis a “dangerous gateway drug” and pledged that his department would enforce federal laws prohibiting the possession of cannabis.
“Let me be clear about marijuana. It is a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs,” Kelly said in a speech at George Washington University on April 18. “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.”
The message was a departure from a statement he made just last week. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kelly told host Chuck Todd that, that “marijuana is not a factor in the drug war.”
His statements on Meet the Press were a welcome change from his colleagues in the Trump administration. Attorney General Jeff Session and Vice-President Mike Pence have been particularly vehement opponents of cannabis. However, based on his recent comments, it seems clear that his opinions have shifted.
Kelly added in rhetoric about undocumented immigrants by saying, “When marijuana is found at aviation checkpoints and baggage screening, TSA personnel will also take appropriate action. Finally, [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] 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.”
The Department of Homeland Security has faced harsh criticism from citizens and lawmakers alike for their stance on cannabis and immigration. To this, Kelly had a firm reply.“If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws. Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.”