Could Joe Biden’s Selection of Kamala Harris for VP Impact Cannabis Policy?

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Image: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com

WILMINGTON, Del. – Former Vice President and Democratic nominee for the 2020 Presidency, Joe Biden, has selected Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate.

Harris represents the first Black woman to join a major political party’s ticket for the White House. Biden referred to Harris as a “fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants.” Harris claimed a Biden presidency would “unify the American people” and “build an America that lives up to our ideals.”

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President Donald Trump, who has donated to previous U.S. Senate campaigns for Harris, was quick to criticize Harris and Biden’s decision to select her. Calling her a liar and “about the most liberal person in the U.S. Senate.”

Harris has a fairly long track record that will surely be further examined as the campaign season kicks into high gear. Before securing her seat on the U.S. Senate in 2016, Harris served as the District Attorney for San Francisco (2004 – 2011) and the Attorney General for California (2011– 2017).

Cannabis advocates may remember Harris’ initial stance on legalization in 2010 where she expressed opposition for recreational legalization. Her campaign spokesperson at the time, Brian Brokaw said, “Spending two decades in courtrooms, Harris believes that drug selling harms communities. Harris supports the legal use of medicinal marijuana but does not support anything beyond that.”

Many were disappointed Harris did not embrace the opportunity for California to legalize recreational cannabis two years before Colorado and Washington state. Harris also has come under fire for other issues.

Vox writer German Lopez claimed, “A close examination of Harris’ record shows it’s filled with contradictions. She pushed for programs that helped people find jobs instead of putting them in prison, but also fought to keep people in prison even after they were proved innocent. She refused to pursue the death penalty against a man who killed a police officer, but also defended California’s death penalty system in court. She implemented training programs to address police officers’ racial biases but also resisted calls to get her office to investigate certain police shootings.”

While Harris may have a complicated record that is likely to frustrate some of the Democratic party’s liberal wing, some are praising her recent actions on cannabis policy and criminal justice reform. 

Advocacy organization NORML praised Harris’ support of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. “Passage of the MORE Act is essential in order to truly right the wrongs of federal marijuana criminalization,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “It is time for the Democratic Party to adopt the marijuana policy reform platform that is currently articulated by Senator Harris’s MORE Act.”

Harris also supported Senator Corey Booker’s (D-N.J.) 2018 Marijuana Justice Act. “Right now in this country people are being arrested, being prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail or prison all because of their use of a drug that otherwise should be considered legal,” Harris said at the time. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. I know this as a former prosecutor and I know it as a senator.”

While some cannabis advocates may not be enthusiastic about a Biden/Harris ticket, the Trump administration has not exactly thrown its support behind significant reform or legalization measures. A Biden presidency, with Harris as his vice president, could represent a chance for urgently needed reforms on criminal justice, access to banking for cannabis companies, and federal legalization.

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