Donald Trump’s choice to head the Department of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly, was formerly the head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which deploys U.S. military personnel throughout Central America, South America and the Caribbean to help counter drug cartels. Gen. Kelly thinks states legalizing marijuana in the U.S. has sent mixed messages to other countries where we’re still fighting the drug war.
“The actual legalization does cause us problems because — the hypocrisy,” said Gen. Kelly to Military Times in January, one month before his retirement from the Marines.
“Where you stand is where you sit,” said Kelley. “So if you’re a Latin American, and we’re harping on them to do more to stop the flow of drugs, they say: ‘Wait a minute. As we look north, the real problem is the demand. So why don’t you do more to stop the demand for drugs. […] Why would we do more when you seem to be legalizing this stuff?'”
A few libertarian ears pricked up when Kelly made these remarks nearly a year ago.
Reason’s Jacob Sullum observed, “Kelly is right to perceive hypocrisy — or at least, grave moral inconsistency — in our current drug policies. He is also right to suggest there is something outrageous about the U.S. government’s insistence that other countries bear the burden of stopping Americans from consuming intoxicants it has decided to ban.”
“But the general’s mission-oriented perspective does not allow for the possibility that the war he has been asked to wage is bound to fail because it is fundamentally at odds with human nature and the laws of economics,” Sullum noted.
The Future of Freedom Foundation’s Jacob Hornberger had similar thoughts, “The drug war has been going on for decades and the states that have legalized marijuana have done so only in the past few years. So, why didn’t the military win the drug war in the decades before marijuana was legalized?”
“Could it be that Kelly might just be looking for an excuse to justify his failure to win the war on drugs during his period of command?” Hornberger asked.
Kelly has been careful to say that his real focus is “hard drugs,” and that he doesn’t have a problem with medicinal marijuana. “I’m not a doctor,” Kelly told 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.”
“Every medicine is probably illegal, unless you take it medicinally,” Kelly said.
The head of the Drug Policy Alliance, a pro-legalization non-profit group, called Kelly a “drug war zealot” on Wednesday.
“This is looking really bad,” said executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann, in a press release statement. “First [Sen. Jeff Sessions] for Attorney General, then [Rep. Tom Price] at HHS, and now yet another old-style drug war character for Homeland Security.”
Trump’s choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, staunchly opposes pot legalization and has said “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
“It looks like Donald Trump is revving up to re-launch the failed drug war,” said Nadelmann.
“Kelly is a big-time drug war zealot,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “As head of Southern Command he demonstrated that he is a true believer in the drug war, and it’s incredibly worrying that he could now head up Homeland Security.”
President-elect Trump has said individual states should be able to decide whether or not to allow medicinal and recreational marijuana.