In recent years, California Senator and 2020 presidential contender Kamala Harris has publicly recalibrated her attitudes towards cannabis. On Monday, she took her support for the drug’s regulation a step forward. “Half my family’s from Jamaica, are you kidding me?” she told Charlamagne Tha God, host of popular NYC radio show “The Breakfast Club” when he raised the topic of legalization. The host followed up by asking if she herself had smoked. “I did inhale,” she laughed.
“It was a long time ago, but yes,” the former California attorney general qualified, after the tongue in cheek reference to Bill Clinton’s infamous 1992 campaign sound bite about his disappointing personal experiences with marijuana while he was studying in England. “Listen, I think [it] gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy,” Harris said.
“I believe we need to legalize marijuana, and we need to research the impact of weed on a developing brain,” she told Charlamagne, echoing points made in her recently released memoir.
The senator currently enjoys an A rating from NORML, which highlights Harris’ pointed comment to former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the page of information the organization has collected on Harris; “Let me tell you what California needs, Jeff Sessions. We need support in dealing with transnational criminal organizations and dealing with human trafficking—not in going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana.”
On that note, the senator has come under fire for her aggressive policies on human trafficking, which sex worker organizations hold have made many consensual workers in the industry less safe.
Harris hasn’t always been an avid supporter of marijuana legalization. In 2014 she effectively laughed off reporters’ questions about whether she supported regulating cannabis, dismissing the pro-legalization stance of the Republican challenger for her position as attorney general by saying, “He’s entitled to his opinion”.
But that was a different political moment, and by now Harris has joined the rest of the 2020 presidential candidates—and 62 percent of the US population—by stepping into the pro-legalization camp. Last year, she became a sponsor of Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act that would have legalized the drug on a federal level. The proposed legislation also made key proposals to provide job training for communities that have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs and cut funding for the racially biased prison industrial complex.
In her new book The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, Harris underlined her concern that cannabis prohibition has been wielded against POC communities. “These racial disparities are staggering and unconscionable,” she writes. “We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it.”
Harris centered this struggle for justice in her Monday interview. “We have got to recognize, back to that earlier point, people aren’t starting out on the same base in terms of their ability to succeed,” she commented, underlining her plans to support historically Black colleges and institute tax plans that would combat issues of poverty. “So we have got to recognize that and give people a lift up.”