Kamala Harris’ evolution on marijuana

Posted at 10:14 PM, Feb 11, 2019

During a recent radio interview, Sen. Kamala Harris admitted to smoking weed in the past.

“I did inhale,” the California Democrat said, laughing. “It was a long time ago.”

Harris’ views on marijuana have changed over the years. She expressed opposition in 2010, then voiced support for medical marijuana legalization five years later. Now she’s expanding her support to recreational use as well. The senator’s evolution on pot pairs closely with the changes in public opinion on the issue.

In her new book released last month, Harris wrote that marijuana should be legalized and nonviolent marijuana-related offenses should be cleared from people’s records. “We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it,” Harris writes. “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.”

She goes on in the book to discuss the need for a breathalyzer equivalent to determine levels of marijuana use and her other concerns regarding marijuana use.

What’s her record say?

In 2015, Harris called for “end the federal ban on medical marijuana” during the Democratic State Convention, stopping short of complete legalization. A year before, a local news clip from KCRA shows Harris, then attorney general of California, laughing when asked what she thought of her opponent’s support for recreational legalization of pot.

Earlier, as the district attorney of San Francisco, Harris was opposed to 2010 legislation that would have legalized pot in California, according to the Los Angeles Times. Harris believed “that drug selling harms communities,” her campaign manager at the time told Capitol Weekly, reiterating her support for medical marijuana legalization but not recreational.

Part of this evolution of opinion on pot legalization may have something to do with Harris’ job change. As California’s attorney general, her position wasn’t to provide opinions on the law but to enforce it. Harris’ record as AG, especially when it comes to criminal justice, has been a controversial touchstone in her campaign so far, and she’s been criticized for defending California’s death penalty against challenges in federal courts.

Perhaps it’s a story of gradual realization of the need for legalization, or maybe it’s just a story of one politician adapting to public opinion. Either way, Harris is on the books (literally) as a pro-pot 2020 candidate.