Like many politicians, the position of Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, Joe Biden‘s running mate for the upcoming U.S. presidential election, on drug policies has evolved over the years.
As District Attorney for the District of San Francisco, Kamala Harris oversaw the prosecution of cannabis offenses leading to nearly 2,000 convictions during her tenure, which lasted from 2004 to 2010. Also, during this period, she co-authored a countersuit against a cannabis legalization measure in 2010. And as California Attorney General in 2014, she laughed when a journalist asked her if she would support the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes.
But as a result of her evolution on the national stage, Harris’s position on cannabis began to soften. She has expressed support for several cannabis-related laws. In 2018, she co-signed the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that would remove cannabis from the national list of controlled substances.
Right now in this country, people are being arrested, prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail, all because of their use of a drug that could be considered legal, Harris said in a statement announcing her support for the bill. Legalizing cannabis at the federal level is the smart thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. I know that as a former prosecutor, and I know that as a Senator.
A year later, as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Harris revealed that she had personal experience with cannabis. During an appearance on the popular radio show The Breakfast Club, she told host Charlamagne Tha God that she had smoked cannabis in college.
I have. And I inhaled,” Harris said, referring to Bill Clinton’s famous phrase. I inhaled. That was a long time ago, but yes.
You know, I joke about it – half – but half my family’s from Jamaica! she added, a remark that drew criticism from her Jamaican father for perpetuating a stereotype “in the continuity of identity politics.
Her statement also drew some criticism. Kamala Harris said she had listened to Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur while smoking, but the two artists had not released any tracks in 1986.
In October 2019, Harris reiterated his support for cannabis policy reform in a CNN editorial.
The fact is that cannabis laws have not applied in the same way to everyone. The data show that a person of color is much more likely than a white person to be arrested for cannabis possession, despite evidence that Americans use marijuana at roughly the same rate regardless of race,” Harris wrote.
As public opinion on marijuana moves toward legalization, it is time for us to act intelligently and ensure that any law reforming cannabis adequately addresses the damage caused by the failure of past drug policies,” she continued.
As Senator, Kamala Harris also signed two other cannabis laws, including the MORE Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Delisting Act, which legalized cannabis at the federal level and enacted provisions to address the harm caused by the failed war on drugs. It is also the co-sponsor of a banking bill, the SAFE Act, which guarantees cannabis companies access to banking services.