Cannabis industry not afraid of Homeland Security Secretary's comments about pot

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- John Kelly, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, made clear statements Tuesday about cracking down on marijuana.

"It is a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs," said Kelly.

He called marijuana addictive and potentially harmful to teens and people in their 20s.

"Beyond that, however, its use and possession is against federal law, and until the law is changed by the United States Congress, we in DHS, along with the rest of the federal government, are sworn to uphold all the laws that are on the books," said Kelly.

The DHS secretary went on to describe how they will crackdown on marijuana at the borders.

"Our customs professionals, will continue to search for marijuana at sea, air, and land ports of entry, and, when found, take similar and appropriate actions," Kelly said.

Those statements come just days after Kelly told Meet the Press that marijuana was not a factor in the drug war and is not the biggest issue on the border. He also said on Sunday that arresting a lot of users is not the solution.

Those in Oregon and Washington may be wondering what that means for their burgeoning cannabis industries.

Matt Walstatter, owner of Pure Green in Northeast Portland, says these comments were not very jarring.

"I don't see this as anything terribly meaningful, groundbreaking, or game-changing," Walstatter said. "I think we are fully speed ahead. I don't know anyone that is a colleague of mine that has said I am going to get out of the business because of what the federal government is saying."

Industry insiders feel continued comments by federal agencies with regards to pot enforcement is all talk. They don't think comments like Kelly's will have an impact on their industry. They are waiting for the feds to outline how they will treat cannabis businesses operating in states where pot is legal.

For users in Oregon, Kelly's statement come just a day after Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill that prohibits the pot businesses from keeping customer information or sharing it with the federal government.

With regards to Kelly's statements about health impacts, Walstatter does not agree.

"It's dramatically less of an issue than with alcohol, tobacco, than with other illegal drugs like cocaine and heroine, than with prescription narcotics that are given away by doctors very freely," Walstatter said.

Science journals say we need more research. According to the National Research Institute, marijuana can be addictive. Their research also shows that people who use marijuana rarely go on to use harder drugs, but added that they need to do more research.

While we looked at the effects on the cannabis industry in Oregon, Kelly's statements also addressed illegal immigration.

"Finally, 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," said Kelly.

While pot may be legal in Oregon, an undocumented immigrant with a conviction involving marijuana could be subject to deportation.

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