By Olivia Beavers // The Hill
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday marijuana is not “a factor in the drug war,” citing addictive drugs as the key border focus for fighting illegal drugs in the U.S.
“Yeah, marijuana is not a factor in the drug war,” Kelly told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“Drug consumption in the United States is the problem, just cocaine alone when you consider the massive amounts of profit that come out of the United States,” he added.
Kelly cited meth, heroin and cocaine as the three main drugs that have played a role in the U.S. drug crisis, leading to the over 52,000 deaths in 2015.
“Those three drugs result in the death in think last year in , of 52,000 people to include opiates. It’s a massive problem. 52,000 Americans. You can’t put a price on human misery. The cost to the United States is over $250 billion a year,” Kelly said.
Kelly told Todd that arresting drug users won’t resolve the problem, rather, he said the steps for alleviating the drug crisis should be to first reduce drug demand in the U.S., then rehabilitation, law enforcement, and then targeting the origins of the drugs.
“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,” he continued.
Kelly said drug traffickers struggled to launder their profits from the drug trade, not smuggle it into the U.S. He cited drug cartels’ influence, through violence, over their governments in Latin American countries as a forefront issue, arguing that corruption leads to smuggled goods in the U.S.
“The trafficker’s biggest problem is not getting drugs, till now, into the United States — the biggest problem they had was laundering the money. So when you have that much profit coming out of the United States, and that profit is managed by cartels that are beyond violent,” Kelly said in part. “The kind of money they can offer an attorney general in Guatemala or a police chief in Mexico City, the kind of money they can offer — and if you don’t take the money they’re happy to send your youngest child’s head to your home in a plastic bag.”
Kelly said he first took on the drug crisis because “no one else” did, adding that the Obama administration did little to fight against it.
“When I was in the Marine Corps people would often say to me, ‘Marine four-star, why are you so involved in this drug thing?’ And my answer is because no one else is. I get almost no interest from the last administration, as much as I railed about it — to just start the process of getting after this drug demand,” he said.