U.S. Senator and presumed 2020 presidential hopeful Kamala Harris (D-CA) is the latest in a line of high-profile Democratic legislators to offer official support for the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill seeking to legalize cannabis nationwide and promote social justice for victims of America’s War on Drugs.
According to a press release published by Sen. Harris’ office on Thursday, the lawmaker and former California attorney general called out the double standards of prohibition and took a concrete stance against marijuana’s Schedule I drug status.
“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,” Senator Harris said. “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.”
In addition to the official press release, Harris released a personal video in collaboration with media outlet NowThis, in which the Senator spoke about the Marijuana Justice Act’s social justice focus and was joined by fellow Democratic Senator and the bill’s author, Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do and it’s the right thing to do. Today, I’m announcing my support for @CoryBooker‘s Marijuana Justice Act. pic.twitter.com/cOh3SjMaOW
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) May 10, 2018
Since Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Act last year, the nation’s most far-reaching cannabis reform legislation has received support from only a select few senators. In addition to Booker and Harris, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have signed their names as co-sponsors.
According to early predictions from FiveThirtyEight in January, as well as estimations by countless other pundits, those five senators represent a who’s who of presumed challengers in 2020’s presidential primary and eventual general election.
But while the other four senators have track records full of support for 420-friendly causes, Harris has historically abstained from officially backing cannabis reform legislature. She’s also offered inconsistent support for legalization in her home state of California.
During the 2014 election season, when then-attorney general Harris was running for re-election, a group of reporters asked her about her opponents’ support for recreational cannabis legalization. Harris responded with a sarcastic laugh, and said, “He’s entitled to his opinion.”
Outside of legislative action (or, well, inaction), Harris’ newfound support for the Marijuana Justice Act comes a year after the California Senator wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that defended the legitimacy of state-legal weed laws.
If passed, the Marijuana Justice Act would not only remove cannabis from the federal government’s controlled substance list, but would also punish states that continue to make racially-biased pot arrests by withholding federal funds. The federal legalization bill would also expunge all minor marijuana convictions and allow people currently serving prison sentences for weed charges to officially appeal their cases.
(h/t Marijuana Moment)
Follow Zach Harris on Twitter