DHS chief reverses marijuana comments

DHS chief reverses marijuana comments
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly reversed recent comments on marijuana Tuesday in his first major public speech since being sworn in.

Kelly vowed that Department of Homeland Security staff would continue to investigate and arrest those involved in illegal trade of the drug and called marijuana “a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs.”

"... Its use and possession 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," he added. 

"DHS personnel will continue to investigate marijuana’s illegal pathways along the network into the U.S., its distribution within the homeland, and will arrest those involved in the drug trade according to federal law. [Customs and Border Protection] will continue to search for marijuana at sea, air and land ports of entry and when found take similar appropriate action.

"When marijuana is found at aviation checkpoints and baggage screening [Transportation Security Administration] personnel will also take appropriate action. Finally, [Immigration 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. They have done this in the past, are doing it today, and will do it in the future."

The apparent reversal comes two days after he told “Meet the Press” that marijuana is not “a factor in the drug war.”

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“Yeah, marijuana is not a factor in the drug war,” Kelly told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s Sunday show, citing meth, heroin and cocaine as the three main drugs that have played a role in the U.S. drug crisis that killed more than 52,000 people in 2015. 

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsOvernight Tech: Trump targets Amazon | DHS's new flight screening requirements | House Dem calls on DOJ, FBI DOJ hosts Pride party honoring transgender student from bathroom case Senate Dems propose incentives to reduce state prison populations MORE is an outspoken opponent of marijuana use and has criticized the 28 states and Washington, D.C., that do not enforce federal laws banning it.

The Trump administration has offered mixed messages, and no clear guidance, on its plans for marijuana regulation.