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Kamala Harris introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana on federal level


  • Maverick Pictures /
  • Sen. Kamala Harris.

California Sen. Kamala Harris wants to free the weed.

The Democratic 2020 presidential candidate introduced legislation on Tuesday that would decriminalize and tax marijuana on the federal level. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act would also allow for re-sentencing or expungement of marijuana-based criminal records and ban the denial of public benefits for marijuana use or possession.

Also under the plan, 50 percent of the tax revenue generated by the marijuana industry would go toward three trust funds: The Community Reinvestment Grant would provide funding for job training, the Cannabis Opportunity Grant would help small canna-businesses, and the Equitable Licensing Grant would offer assistance for communities most impacted by the "War on Drugs" to get access to the marijuana industry.

“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” Harris said in a statement. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives."

It's a bit of an about-face for Harris. Nine years ago, as San Francisco's district attorney, Harris opposed 2010 legislation that would have legalized adult-use recreational marijuana in California. In 2014, as California's attorney general, Harris declined to comment on her opponent Ron Gold's calls to legalize recreational marijuana.

Later, as a 2020 candidate, Harris admitted to The Breakfast Club that she smoked weed in college.

"I did inhale," she said. "It was a long time ago."

She also told the radio station she listened to classic hip-hop like Tupac and Snoop Dogg while she smoked, but sharp hip-hop heads pointed out that Harris graduated before either rapper dropped their debut records. (Well, marijuana can affect memory, so that checks out.)

Marijuana legalization is popular among Democratic 2020 candidates. Sen. Cory Booker reintroduced a 2017 plan to legalize marijuana on the federal level, and that bill was co-signed by other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Harris.

Former Vice President Joe Biden does not support marijuana legalization. On Tuesday, he released a criminal justice reform plan that calls for marijuana-related criminal record expungement.

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