Thursday, December 8, 2016
Despite uncertainty as to his personal views on marijuana, President-elect Donald Trump hasn't shied away from nominating people to his administration who are openly hostile to it. Trump recently nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be the next attorney general and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as the next director of the Department of Health and Human Services, both of whom have been strong critics of legalization. Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that Trump will soon announce retired Marine General John F. Kelly as the next director of the Department of Homeland Security. While his views on marijuana policy appear slightly more nuanced than those of Session or Price, Kelly is still hostile to marijuana legalization. The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham writes:
Kelly served as the head of the U.S. Southern Command, a posting that gave him oversight ofU.S. security operations for Central America, the Caribbean and the entirety of South America. Trump settled on Kelly in part for his Southwest border expertise, according to people familiarwith the deliberations.
In that role, Kelly grappled with issues relating to the international illicit drug trade and the flow of narcotics, including heroin and cocaine, from countries in the Southern Hemisphere to markets in the United States...
Kelly is, however, critical of marijuana legalization. He calls the plant a gateway to harder drugs (this notion is disputed by many drug abuse researchers and the National Institute on Drug Abuse). He does support the use of medical marijuana, however: “I'm not a doctor,” he told the Military Times, “but I'm told it has a medical use. So whether it's veterans or anyone else, if it helps those people, then fine. Medicine is medicine.”
Kelly's nomination would be the third Trump Cabinet pick who is an outspoken critic of marijuana legalization. Attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has been harshly critical of legalization efforts, arguing that “good people don't smoke marijuana.” Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trump's pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, has been one of the most reliably anti-marijuana members of Congress in recent years, voting against even modest policy changes.
As DHS secretary, Kelly wouldn't have as direct an effect on federal drug policy as the attorney general or the Health and Human Services secretary. But if confirmed, he would be one more Cabinet-level skeptic of marijuana legalization in an era of increasing marijuana legalization at the state level.