.Kamala Harris and Cannabis Reform

Setting the cannabis record straight for Vice President Kamala Harris

Eyes on you, Vice President Kamala Harris.

So-called “Concerns” about President Joe Biden’s mental acuity have been ginned up by the right-wing propaganda machine with the enthusiastic help of an increasingly indistinguishable mainstream media.

It’s all incredibly stupid and destructive. By most accounts from White House staffers and others close to the present, while Biden is surely slowing down, he’s still with it: on top of the issues, asking smart questions, making decisions. You can see that in his media appearances, too. Unlike the mutt he’s running against, he can still follow a simple train of thought—and also isn’t encouraging Vladimir Putin to attack our allies.

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Still, though, the guy is 81 years old, so it’s not like this isn’t an issue at all. At the end of a second term, if he were to make it that far, he’d be 86. Given that, we should all probably be paying a lot more attention to Vice President Kamala Harris.

Lots of people in the “pot community,” if that’s even really a thing, despise Harris, often calling her a “cop” because of her time serving as the San Francisco district attorney and as California’s attorney general.

The criticisms are often both seething and inane. But it’s not like the people making them don’t have a case at all. Her overall record as a prosecutor is highly varied in terms of how “cop”-like it was, and there’s no need to get into it here. Suffice it to say that while she was “tough on crime”—which, after all, was her job—she also pursued a lot of social-justice initiatives and tended to seek fairness where she could in what is, after all, a broken system. In the end, hers is the record of a liberal Democrat whose job was fighting crime.

When it comes to cannabis specifically, her history is similarly mixed. During her tenure as San Francisco’s DA from 2004 to 2011, she convicted about 1,900 people for cannabis offenses. But most of those people were also charged with other crimes, and only a few dozen were actually incarcerated for cannabis crimes. While putting anyone in jail for weed is bad, it might help to remember that pot was still illegal during her tenure, and she was a district attorney.

Even back then, Harris supported medical marijuana, and it wasn’t like she made cannabis a high priority or cited it as a cause. Indeed, she had a stated policy of not seeking convictions of low-level pot offenses. What’s more, her predecessor, the famously liberal Terrence Halliman, sent more people to prison for pot offenses than she did, even though her conviction rate was higher.

Cannabis wasn’t really an issue for Harris during her tenure as attorney general, but she made what even she must now see as a major misstep when she declined to support Prop. 64 in 2016.

What should matter to voters now, of course, is her current stance on federal cannabis policy. It has evolved, much like many of President Biden’s stances have. Perhaps most surprisingly, she indicated in 2019 that she favors straight-up legalization at the federal level. Short of that, she favors descheduling, expungement and most of the other reforms advocates are pushing for.

Still, politicians are what they are, and last week Harris issued a real clunker, as reported by Marijuana Moment: In a video, she vastly overstated the Biden administration’s advancements on cannabis policy and displayed an error-filled map of legal states.

One can call Harris’ evolution “flip-flopping” and a transparent ploy to attract younger voters. And that would be accurate. But it would also be accurate to say she’s catering to the wishes of her constituency, which—just like when she prosecuted people as a prosecutor—is her job.

And anyway, what choice is there, really? Trump hasn’t picked a running mate yet, but we have to assume it will be someone a billion times worse (probably worse on cannabis, and, much more importantly, certainly worse on far bigger issues like global warming and American democracy).

What, you’d prefer Vice President Tucker Carlson? How about Vice President Kid Rock?


  1. Seriously? Where do you live? Mars? A journalist who 1) calls constituents names (how mature and professional of you) and 2) Can’t get his facts straight. We all CAN SEE our president on TV. You do realize this right? And most Americans are smart enough to know what we see with our own eyes despite journalists (and I use that title lightly) trying to sound hip and spin the facts.

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  2. Talk about propaganda! Dan Mitchell, you are nothing more than a liar.

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