While speaking at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, in September, Retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, remarked that, “The biggest threat to our national security today is drugs.” As a recent White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Commander, U.S. Southern Command (SouthCom), Kelly is intimately familiar with the nation’s illicit drug challenges. He argues that the country needs a national campaign to reduce U.S. demand for illicit drugs—and it needs it now.
The country’s appetite for illicit drugs is indeed alarming. According to a 2019 RAND Corporation study, the United States consumes roughly $150 billion a year worth of illegal drugs, just $8 billion shy of its average annual alcohol consumption. Yet unlike legitimate companies that make and sell alcohol, transnational criminal organizations run the illicit drug industry, organizations that have no qualms about harming the local economies and societies in Mexico from where they produce and distribute their product to meet our demand.