The Trump Administration will use cannabis possession as a reason for deporting immigrants, Homeland Security Chief John Kelly said last week.
Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but eight states have legalized it for adult use and 29 states have medical marijuana laws. Individuals following state law, therefore, would be subject to deportation.
Kelly lied about cannabis in a speech at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security,
Let me be clear about marijuana: It is a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs.
ICE 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 living in the United States.
Kelly added that the Department of Homeland Security 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.
Officials at the Drug Policy Alliance, which works for saner drug laws in the United States, said the policy represented the opposite of progress.
Whether it’s the construction of a wall or deporting individuals for marijuana possession, the Trump Administration has signaled its desire to use the drug war as a tool to persecute immigrants.
It’s outrageous to think that anyone following medical advice under state law would be subject to deportation. – Jerónimo Saldaña, policy manager at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs
The Trump Administration has already used the Drug War as a way of targeting immigrants. Last week’s statement is merely an escalation of this tactic, according to the DPA.
Uniquely though, the desire to deport people for marijuana use demonstrates the conflict between state and federal law on marijuana, and the necessity to end federal prohibition.
We hear talk about ending the state-vs-federal conflict on marijuana laws to fix the banking and tax problem, but the Kelly statement shows that there are far more dramatic consequences for our nation’s disastrous drug policy. – Saldaña
Under the Obama Administration, simple drug possession was not a priority offense. But taken alongside recent statements and actions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it is clear that the Drug War is being escalated under Trump, according to the DPA.
According to the Immigrant Defense Project, one out of every four “criminal removals” – over 250,000 deportations – involved a person whose most serious conviction was for a drug offense.
Last year, Human Rights Watch released a report on drug deportations. It noted that,
Thousands of families in the United States have been torn apart in recent years by detention and deportation for drug offenses.
Last week, the ACLU released a report noting that veterans who have served the country as lawful permanent residents have been “subject to draconian immigration laws that reclassified many minor offenses as deportable crimes, and were effectively banished from this country.”
It is unconscionable that immigrants are being targeted and deported for simple possession of marijuana – and it’s especially egregious in states that have a legal framework for marijuana.
States and municipalities must stand against this type of fear mongering and protect their residents. – Melissa Moore, deputy director for the Drug Policy Alliance’s New York office