Kamala Harris on Cannabis: Her Record Is Not as Terrible as You Assume

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U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris has come a lengthy way given 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 Common of California from 2011-2016, even though Politifact says her “record is mixed.” Is she as poor as some are attempting to say?

For instance, this headline ran on the Washington, DC-primarily based conservative web page, the Absolutely free Beacon, back in February: “Kamala Harris Packed California Prisons With Pot Peddlers.” The subhead study: “At least 1,560 men and women have been sent to state prisons for marijuana-associated offenses in between 2011 and 2016.”

The story itself does not make the claim that Harris was in any way personally accountable for all these men and women becoming sent away, but only men and women who study previous the subhead will recognize that.

In actuality, most of these men and women 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 extra than 70,000 of these.&#13
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Freedom Leaf Requests Information from California’s Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation

In search of clarity on these numbers and other folks, Freedom Leaf requested public records from the California Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR). That request was authorized on July 24. This write-up is primarily based on the information offered by the DCR.

California’s lawyer common is the prime law enforcement officer in the state. Having said that, as the California District Attorneys Association points out: “By law, the district lawyer is the chief law enforcement officer in the county. When a district attorney’s duties are not restricted to criminal prosecution, California Government Code ß 26500 gives that the district attorney’s most important duty is investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses on behalf of the men and women.”

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

Marijuana-Associated Prison Admissions in California from 2011-2016

According to the DCR, in calendar year 2011 there have been 617 men and women sent to prison for marijuana-associated offenses – 519 felon admissions on charges of marijuana possession for sale, 216 for marijuana sales and 82 for other marijuana offenses.

In calendar year 2012, there have been 178 men and women sent to prison for marijuana-associated offenses – 140 felon admissions for marijuana possession for sale, 77 for marijuana sales and 27 for other marijuana offenses.

In Harris’ final 4 years as AG, the quantity of men and women sent to prison for marijuana-associated offenses fluctuated somewhat: 210 in 2013, 345 in 2014, 131 in 2015 and 89 in 2016.

Chart courtesy of California Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation

For a state with almost 40 million men and women, these are not seriously considerable numbers.

It is correct, as the Absolutely free Beacon pointed out, the state of California was ordered by federal courts to lessen its prison population. But that didn’t come about in 2011, as the Absolutely free Beacon claimed. The federal order to lessen California’s prison population was handed down in 2009, even though it wasn’t till Prop 47 passed in 2014 that the state seriously began to make progress.

(The Absolutely free Beacon did get a single issue correct about California’s try to lessen its prison population. Lots of counties began sending men and women to jails rather than prison, which has developed a significant jail overcrowding dilemma.)

Harris’ Evolution from Bystander to Legalization Supporter

To greater 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 Common.

According to NORML, for the duration of her time as San Francisco DA, Harris was a strong supporter of patient access to health-related cannabis. Having said that, 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

Kamala Harris offers a victory speech following winning the nomination for California Lawyer Common in 2010. (Photo by Steve Rhodes)

In 2014, for the duration of Harris’ AG reelection campaign against Ron Gold, who was for legalization, she laughed and stated, “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 stated she is ‘not opposed’ to it and even sees it as ‘inevitable.’”

Two years later, Harris ducked the query when Prop 64, one more adult-use marijuana legalization initiative was on the ballot, simply because the lawyer general’s workplace prepares ballot titles and summaries. That is understandable: If she took a position a single way or the other on the ballot measure, then the other side could’ve accused her of deliberately slanting the titles and summary. Nonetheless, she was commonly supportive of the thought 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 substantially extra seniority, is the renowned drug warrior Dianne Feinstein.

Introducing the Marijuana Chance Reinvestment and Expungement Act 

Senator Harris is a single 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 Property Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the measure “goes additional than prior bills” and would “end the federal war on marijuana and correct the wrongs of prohibition.”

So, is Harris an opportunist jumping onto a bandwagon in order to raise funds and achieve electoral help? Possibly, but she’s not most likely to endear herself to the significant dollars moving into the marijuana sector by calling for equity applications and social justice. Activists, on the other hand, may well appreciate her contact for social justice, even though her background as a prosecutor leaves some men and women, mainly Californians, cold.

Has Harris seriously evolved from the profession prosecutor who saw the planet via a law enforcement lens to a political leader with extra nuanced views? Some men and women do enter law enforcement simply because of a finely tuned sense of morality, only to be turned off by the endemic immorality inside the criminal justice program and therefore develop into crusaders for social justice. Or is she just superior at gauging the winds of public opinion and acknowledging the realpolitik?

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

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