Cannabis Legalization Anchors U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ Criminal Justice Plans
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Cannabis Legalization Anchors U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ Criminal Justice Plans

More than a year out from the 2020 election, presidential candidates are citing cannabis reform more often as a campaign angle.

September 9, 2019

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris announced a broad criminal justice policy overhaul as part of her presidential campaign Sept. 9, and cannabis legalization is a key component.

Harris’ plan targets the war on drugs as an overarching concept—something she plans to end outright—and she homes in on cannabis legalization as a stepping stone in that direction. Her plans include: “support states in legalizing marijuana; legalize marijuana on the federal level, expunge convictions, and reinvest in the community.”

While Harris has been criticized for playing a prosecutorial role in the war on drugs as California attorney general, she’s used her presidential campaign to lend vocal support to the ongoing reform movement. Harris is hovering around the seven- and eight-percent mark in most Democratic polling averages, according to

To enact her criminal justice vision and its cannabis tenets, Harris is pledging to:

-       Legalize cannabis at the federal level by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act

-       Require expungement for cannabis-related convictions

-       Create three grant programs by assessing a sales tax on cannabis products

  • Those programs will: provide job training and re-entry services to individuals “most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs,” provide states and municipalities with funds for small business loans in the cannabis industry (specifically for businesses “owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals”) and provide funds for programs that minimize barriers to entry for those same individuals who are seeking employment or licensing in the cannabis industry.

“It is past time to end the failed war on drugs, and it begins with legalizing marijuana,” Harris wrote in a public statement. “Marijuana arrests account for over 50 percent of all drug arrests. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were for simple marijuana possession. Worse, despite roughly equal usage rates, black people are about four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana.”