In August Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his running mate. This, along with her former career as an attorney general, may leave some wondering about her stance on legalizing marijuana. It turns out her opinions changed quite a bit throughout the last decade, and we have all the details and latest information right here.
Kamala Harris began her career in Alameda County District Attorney’s office and slowly worked her way up the ranks. She later served in San Francisco District Attorney’s office. In 2010 Harris was elected to be California’s attorney general and later became a senator.
As a prosecutor in 2010, Harris co-authored an official voter guide argument opposing California’s cannabis legalization. The Washington Free Beacon conducted an analysis in which it was revealed that 1,560 people were sent to California state prisons for marijuana-related offenses during Harris’s run as the attorney general. In her last year of being an attorney general, Harris was asked about her opponent’s pro-marijuana stance and her thoughts on marijuana. She laughed in response to that question. Harris’s position had changed drastically since then; when recently asked about marijuana, she said, “I did inhale, it was a long time ago.” That sounds promising!
In 2015 Harris called for an “end the federal ban on medical marijuana” at the state democratic convention. In 2018 she added her name to a marijuana bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker. This bill focused on removing marijuana from the list of federally banned substances and penalizing states that disproportionally enforced marijuana law on people of color.
Later in 2018, Harris and US Senator Orrin Hatch signed a letter to the Justice Department, demanding they stop blocking federal research into medical cannabis. She further continued her support by signing a different letter requesting protection for legal marijuana states in the new spending bill.
By 2019 Harris was an avid advocate of marijuana legalization and even sponsored the senate version of the marijuana rescheduling bill in July of 2019. The bill also included provisions for the expungement of federal cannabis convictions.
“Times have changed—marijuana should not be a crime,” Harris said while introducing Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives.”
In addition to the MORE act, Harris co-sponsored a SAFE Banking act, which would protect banks that work with marijuana businesses from federal punishment. During her run as a senator, Harris sponsored other pro-marijuana pieces of legislature. One of those aimed at protecting people with drug convictions from losing public housing. Another one aimed to help rehabilitate land in California that was damaged by illicit cannabis growth.
Campaign Trail and Beyond
During her time as a presidential hopeful, Harris focused heavily on marijuana reform in her criminal justice platform. “It is past time to end the failed war on drugs, and it begins with legalizing marijuana,” Harris announced when she introduced her criminal justice reform in September of 2019.
Kamala Harris’ most notable involvement post her presidential race has been drafting a letter to Senate leadership in April. In the letter, Harris asked that they include language in the coronavirus relief legislation that would allow marijuana businesses to access federal relief aid. She also sent a letter in the same month requesting that there be provisions added to the bill that would allow cannabis businesses to access federal loan programs.
Harris has been less vocal about her stance after she withdrew her presidential bid. And in July, the senator indicated that she would not push the presumptive Democratic nominee on the issue. Joe Biden himself is not in favor of adults using marijuana recreationally, so he and his new running mate have different opinions. However, Harris’ previous strong track record may make it an interesting subject of conversation between the two.
Kamala Harris has a strong track record of supporting marijuana reform. Biden, on the other hand, has strong opposing views. So it remains to be seen whether Harris will influence the presidential hopeful to soften his stance. Here is to hoping!