Kamala Harris Praises Illinois For Legalizing Marijuana

By Kelly Burch 07/05/19

This is not the first time that Senator Harris (D-CA) has spoken out in favor of legalized cannabis.

Kamala Harris

Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Kamala Harris, took to Twitter this week to praise Illinois for legalizing marijuana and moving to expunge the records of people with marijuana-related criminal records. 

“Thankful states like Illinois are stepping up to correct the mistakes of our past. It’s time to do the same at the federal level,” Harris wrote on Twitter

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation this week that makes recreational cannabis legal for adults who are 21 or over. At the same time, the legislation will automatically expunge records for people who were caught with 30 grams of cannabis or less, while others with more serious offenses can petition the court for expungement. 

Harris Talks Cannabis Reform In Her Book

This is not the first time that Harris (D-CA) has spoken out in favor of legalized cannabis. In January she explicitly called for cannabis law reform in her book The Truths We Hold: An American Journey

"Something else it's past time we get done is dismantling the failed war on drugs—starting with legalizing marijuana," she wrote. "We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it, and we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives."

More broadly, she wrote about drugs: "We also need to stop treating drug addiction like a public safety crisis instead of what it is: a public health crisis. When someone is suffering from addiction, their situation is made worse, not better, by involvement in the criminal justice system.”

Harris formerly worked as a prosecutor—as San Francisco's district attorney and then attorney general of California—and has said that race undoubtedly plays a role in who is tried for marijuana crimes. 

“The fact is marijuana laws are not applied and enforced the same way for all people. African-Americans use marijuana at roughly the same rate as whites, but are approximately four times more likely to be arrested for possession. That's just not fair,” she has said in the past. 

In addition, Harris has admitted that she smoked pot in the past.  

“Look I joke about it, I have joked about it. Half my family is from Jamaica, are you kidding me?" she said in February. “I have had concerns, which I think—first of all, let me just make this statement very clear, I believe we need to legalize marijuana. Now, that being said... we need to research, which is one of the reasons we need to legalize it. We need to move it on the schedule so that we can research the impact of weed on a developing brain. You know, that part of the brain that develops judgment, actually begins its growth at age 18 through age 24."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.