Democratic candidate for President (withdrawn); California Senator
Will get rid of cash bail and decriminalize marijuana
We will, on the issue of criminal justice reform, get rid of private prisons and cash bail and we will decriminalize marijuana.
And we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana. This is a time for leadership on a tragic, tragic issue.
Source: 2020 Vice-Presidential Debate in Utah
, Oct 7, 2020
Opposed marijuana legalization, but currents have changed
Q: You used to oppose the legalization of marijuana; now you don't. You've said that you changed on this and other things because you were, "swimming against the current, and thankfully the currents have changed." But when you had the power,
why didn't you try to effect change then?
HARRIS: I made a decision that, if I was going to have the ability to reform the system, I would try to do it from the inside.
And so I took on the position that allowed me, without asking permission, to create one of the first in the nation initiatives that was a model and became a national model around people who were arrested for
drugs and getting them jobs. I created one of the first in the nation trainings for a police officer on the issue of racial bias and the need to reform the system.
the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019, which would end cannabis prohibition at the federal level, expunge federal cannabis convictions, and reinvest in the communities that have been most harmed by cannabis prohibition.
Cosponsors the SAFE Banking Act of
2019, which would allow banks to provide services to cannabis businesses that are legal at the state level.
Quote: "While I don't believe in legalizing all drugs--as a career prosecutor I just don't--we need to do the smart thing, the right thing, and
finally decriminalize marijuana." (2017)
Quote: "Instead of going after drug cartels, and violent crime, and major traffickers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is going after recreational marijuana users. That's not being smart on crime." (2018)
Sen. Kamala Harris called for the legalization of marijuana at a federal level: "Half my family's from Jamaica," the California Democrat said, laughing when asked to respond to those who think she's opposed to legalizing recreational use of the
drug. "Are you kidding me?"
Harris also said she smoked a joint in college. "And I inhaled," she added, joking in reference to President Bill Clinton's comments on the campaign trail in 1992 that he smoked marijuana but "didn't inhale it."
When asked if she would smoke again if the federal government were to legalize the recreational use of the drug, Harris laughed and replied: "Listen, I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy."
Harris said legalization would have to come with some caveats, emphasizing a need for research on the effects of marijuana on the developing brain and a means for regulating use of the drug while driving.
Dismantle War on Drugs; start with marijuana legalization
It's past time we get done dismantling the failed war on drugs--starting with legalizing marijuana. Between 2001 and 2010, more than seven million people were arrested for simple possession of marijuana. They are disproportionately black and brown.
One stark example: during the first three months of 2018, 93 percent of the people the NYPD arrested for marijuana possession were people of color.
These racial disparities are staggering and unconscionable.
We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it. And we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of the millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.
In 2017, the administration declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, but the fund they used to deal with it had only--I kid you not--$57,000 in it. That represents less than one dollar for each person who died of a drug overdose that year.
This is a crisis that deserves a major federal mobilization. We need to declare a national state of emergency, which would provide more funding, right away, to help combat this disease--more resources to pay for addiction
treatment, hospital services, skills training, and more.
We need to make sure that people who are addicted have access to medication-assisted-treatment (MAT)--drugs like buprenorphine which prevents withdrawal symptoms and cravings without producing
the kind of high that heroin or OxyContin does. Many insurance companies will cover the cost of opioids while charging more than $200 a month for buprenorphine. That has to change. We have to change it.
In 2014 Kamala Harris was asked for her opinion on legalizing recreational marijuana. Her response, which incensed the pro-pot crowd to no end, was laughter. What a difference a year makes. Now she's running for a US Senate seat. And she's changed
her tune from laughter to support for an end of the federal prohibition on medical marijuana.
At the 2015 Democratic State Convention, here's what she said, "Standing up for the people means challenging the policy of mass incarceration by recognizing
the war on drugs was a failure. Now is the time to end the federal ban on medical marijuana."
Harris' own pronouncements on cannabis have been evolving. Last fall she lashed out at feds' continued crackdowns in medical marijuana states, saying, "An
overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine." Late last year, she also said she believed that recreational pot legalization in California was inevitable.
Back on Track: re-entry instead of incarceration for drugs
In 2005, as district attorney of San Francisco, I put this strategy to the test when we created "Back on Track," a comprehensive reentry initiative for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders. The initiative focused on personal responsibility by holding
offenders accountable for their behavior. In exchange, participants engaged in intensive reentry, life skills training, and education and employment opportunities to reduce the alarmingly high chance that they would resume a life of crime upon their
Back on Track worked. The re-offense rate for participants was 10%, compared to 54% for non-participants who had committed the same types of crime. Taxpayer savings were significant. The program cost less than $5,000 per
person, compared to the $43,000 it cost to house an offender in jail for one year.
We were honored that the U.S. Department of Justice designated Back on Track as a model for law enforcement.7
As chief law enforcement officer for the State of California, Attorney General Harris has focused on combating transnational gangs,
increasing the adoption of technology and data-driven policing by law enforcement, and improving public safety by reducing recidivism.
Deal with drug addiction in offenders, but still arrest them
[Low-level criminal] offenders often have no job skills, and far more often than not are addicted to drugs. Drug crimes in particular exact a terrible toll and rob people young and old of hope.
And remember that many of these offenders are small
players in the underground business of drug sales and trafficking, and therefore are closely linked with gangs, violence, and gun crimes.
While we need to arrest and make all offenders accountable for their crimes, we are finding ways to transform the status quo approach that results in offense-arrest-jail-offense-arrest-jail--a pattern
I sometimes call "synchronized drowning"--into a new path of accountability and reintegration that builds stronger, safer communities.
Co-sponsor of Marijuana Justice Act for legalization
She's declared her support for legalizing marijuana at the federal level, admitting in an interview that she had smoked a joint "a long time ago."
Signed on as a cosponsor of Cory Booker's Marijuana Justice Act to legalize weed at the federal level.
Source: Axios.com "What you need to know about 2020"
, May 7, 2019