This week, the campaign for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former vice president Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris is a California Senator, and she also served as California Attorney General and district attorney for the city of San Francisco. Some Californians have been critical of her record as a prosecutor in California for a number of issues ranging from inmate releases to anti-truancy programs. David Downs, the California bureau chief for Leafly, says that as a California prosecutor Harris “was no drug warrior, but she didn’t die on the hill for legalization either.”
Downs says that Harris’ stance on cannabis has shifted since she first took public office as the San Francisco DA in 2004, but that the public’s outlook has changed, too. An analysis from Politifact of data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation found that there were 1,883 admissions to the state prison system on marijuana offenses during the years Harris was attorney general. Those figures decreased throughout her time in the office, dropping to just 137 in her last year.
After coming out in support of legalization in 2018, she went one to become the chief Senate sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act and co-sponsored the SAFE Banking Act, which would protect banks that work with marijuana businesses from federal punishment. Legalization support has also doubled nationwide from 31% in 2000 to 67% in 2019. Downs says her outlook is much more favorable than that of her running mate.
“She’s contrasted with Vice President Biden by affirming that cannabis is not a gateway drug and that it should be more than decriminalized; it should be legalized and help those who are harmed by the past failed policy,” he says. “I think a new Biden administration would have a lot of priorities and limited political fuel. But if the voters step on the gas toward legalization at the local, state and federal level, Biden’s not going to get in the way, he’ll ride shotgun.”