Kelly made his claim Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” during a discussion about the government’s efforts to stem the influx of illegal drugs into the United States. He said his agency is focusing on cutting off the transport and sale of methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.
Together, meth, cocaine, heroin and other opiates resulted in the deaths of some 52,000 Americans in 2015, Kelly said. “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,” he said.
But “the solution is not arresting a lot of users,” the secretary continued. “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.”
Over 25 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized the use of marijuana. Last November, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada approved ballot measures legalizing recreational use of the drug. Several other states passed measures liberalizing their medical marijuana laws.
A number of Trump administration officials, most notably Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have expressed reservations about this nationwide trend.
“Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think,” Sessions said in February, despite evidence that liberalization of marijuana laws does not lead to increased levels of violence. However, Sessions has not called for an outright reversal of state laws governing marijuana use. In March, he said that Obama administration guidance advising a hands-off policy toward enforcing federal marijuana laws in states with more liberal laws is mostly “valid.”