Kamala Harris on Cannabis: Her Record Is Not as Poor as You Feel

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This report was initially posted on July 31. It was updated on August 1.

U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris has come a extended way considering that she laughed off a query about supporting marijuana legalization in 2014. Harris desires to be identified for possessing been a progressive prosecutor when she was Lawyer Basic of California from 2011-2016, although Politifact says her “record is mixed.” Is she as negative as some are attempting to say?

For instance, this headline ran in conservative web-site, Washington No cost Beacon on February 14: “Kamala Harris Packed California Prisons With Pot Peddlers.” The subhead study: “At least 1,560 people today have been sent to state prisons for marijuana-connected offenses amongst 2011 and 2016.”

The story itself does not make the claim that Harris was in any way personally accountable for all these people today getting sent away, but only people today who study previous the subhead will recognize that.&#13
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In actuality, most of these people today are attempted by city prosecutors or county district attorneys. For instance, in 2017, there have been 200,200 felony criminal filings in California courts. Deputy district attorneys in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Workplace prosecuted far more than 70,000 of these.

California’s lawyer common is the leading law enforcement officer in the state. On the other hand, as the California District Attorneys Association points out: “By law, the district lawyer is the chief law enforcement officer in the county. Though a district attorney’s duties are not restricted to criminal prosecution, California Government Code ß 26500 supplies that the district attorney’s most vital duty is investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses on behalf of the people today.”

The California AG has some supervisory authority more than county district attorneys, but DAs are their personal people today with their personal mandates from their voters. As AG, Harris was capable to advise and present leadership on queries of policy.

Gabbard Utilizes No cost Beacon’s Numbers to Attack Harris Through Democratic Debate

In a surprising turn of events, Rep. Tulsa Gabbard went just after Harris’ record as California’s leading prosecutor through the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate on July 31 on CNN. Through a discussion about criminal justice reform, the Congresswoman from Hawaii lobbed this grenade at Harris: “She place more than 1,500 people today in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”

It turns out the quantity Gabbard quoted from No cost Beacon is incorrect and and is basically somewhat greater.

Looking for clarity on these numbers, Freedom Leaf requested public records from the California Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The request was authorized on July 24.

Here’s what we found: The total quantity of people today admitted to prison for felony marijuana offenses through Harris’ two terms as California’s lawyer common from 2011-2016 was 1,876, not 1,560. Except for 1 year, the numbers the No cost Beacon quoted are incorrect. The offenses include things like marijuana possession for sale, marijuana sales and other offenses such as cultivation and sales to minors.

The admission numbers from 2011-2016 are:

2011 – 817

2012 – 244

2013 – 210

2014 – 245

2015 – 183

2016 – 137

It is critical to note that, from the time Harris was elected AG to when she left workplace, admissions to prison for marijuana offenses in California declined by 83.two%.

Also, California additional decriminalized its marijuana law in 2010, which may perhaps have contributed to this drop in prison admissions.

It is correct, as the No cost Beacon pointed out, California was ordered by federal courts to decrease its prison population. But that didn’t come about in 2011, as the web-site claimed. The federal order to decrease California’s prison population was handed down in 2009, although it wasn’t until Prop 47 passed in 2014 that the state genuinely began to make progress.

Harris’ Evolution from Bystander to Legalization Supporter

To improved realize Harris’ evolution, let’s appear at some historical context. She began as a prosecutor in Alameda County in 1990, fresh out of law college, at the height of the crack wars. By 1998, Harris was operating the profession criminal unit in the San Francisco DA’s workplace. In 2003, she was elected District Lawyer in San Francisco, then in 2010 was elected to the workplace of the state’s Lawyer Basic.

According to NORML, through her time as San Francisco DA, Harris was a strong supporter of patient access to healthcare cannabis. On the other hand, when she ran for state lawyer common in 2010, Harris opposed the adult-use legalization initiative Prop 19, as did her opponent, Los Angeles District Lawyer Steve Cooley.

Kamala Harris provides a victory speech just after winning the nomination for California Lawyer Basic in 2010. (Photo by Steve Rhodes)

It is critical to note that, from the time Harris was elected Lawyer Basic to when she left workplace, admissions to prison for marijuana offenses in California declined by 83.two%.

In 2014, through Harris’ AG reelection campaign against Ron Gold, who was for legalization, she laughed and mentioned, “He’s entitled to his opinion,” when asked by a reporter for hers. According the Drug Policy Forum of California, “Harris waved off a query about legalization with a laugh, but later mentioned she is ‘not opposed’ to it and even sees it as ‘inevitable.’”

Two years later, Harris ducked the query when Prop 64, yet another adult-use marijuana legalization initiative was on the ballot, due to the fact the lawyer general’s workplace prepares ballot titles and summaries. That is understandable: If she took a position 1 way or the other on the ballot measure, then the other side could’ve accused her of deliberately slanting the titles and summary. Nevertheless, she was typically supportive of the notion of legalization in her response to the Sacramento Bee on that query.

In 2016, Kamala Harris was elected to a U.S. Senate controlled by Republicans. The other senator from California, who has significantly far more seniority, is the renowned drug warrior Dianne Feinstein.

Introducing the Marijuana Chance Reinvestment and Expungement Act 

Senator Harris is 1 of the co-sponsors of the Marijuana Justice Act, which was introduced by her opponent in the Democratic primaries, Senator Cory Booker.

On July 23, Senator Harris introduced the Marijuana Chance Reinvestment and Expungement Act along with Residence Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the measure “goes additional than earlier bills” and would “end the federal war on marijuana and proper the wrongs of prohibition.”

So, is Harris an opportunist jumping onto a bandwagon in order to raise funds and get electoral assistance? Perhaps, but she’s not most likely to endear herself to the huge revenue moving into the marijuana market by calling for equity applications and social justice. Activists, on the other hand, may perhaps appreciate her get in touch with for social justice, although her background as a prosecutor leaves some people today, mainly Californians, cold.

Has Harris genuinely evolved from the profession prosecutor who saw the planet by way of a law enforcement lens to a political leader with far more nuanced views? Some people today do enter law enforcement due to the fact of a finely tuned sense of morality, only to be turned off by the endemic immorality inside the criminal justice method and therefore turn into crusaders for social justice. Or is she merely fantastic at gauging the winds of public opinion and acknowledging the realpolitik?

What marijuana-centric voters will have to determine in the Democratic primaries is irrespective of whether Kamala Harris should really continue to evolve as a Senator, or as the President.

Associated: Joy Inside Her Tears: The Greening of Kamala Harris
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