Calif. Sen. Harris Warns Sessions: “We Don’t Need Help Going After Grandma’s MMJ”

Published on May 17, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
In this file photo, Sen. Kamala Harris D-Calif. speaks at the 2017 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, Tuesday, March 28, 2017, at the Washington Convention Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

California Sen. Kamala Harris spoke out against the Trump administration’s drug policies yesterday, advising Attorney General Jeff Sessions that her state needed no help “in going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana.”

Harris, the state’s former attorney general and a rising star in national Democratic circles, made her remarks at the Ideas Conference in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

“Let me tell you what California needs, Jeff Sessions,” Harris said during a conference keynote. “We need support in dealing with transnational criminal organizations and dealing with human trafficking – not in going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana.”

The Ideas Conference, put on by the Center for American Progress, is widely viewed as a testing ground in the Democratic Party’s search for their new standard bearer.

Harris wasn’t done after making the “grandma’s medicinal marijuana” comment.

'We need to do the smart thing, the right thing, and finally decriminalize marijuana.'

The freshman senator took aim at Sessions’ recent sentencing memo, which directs federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest criminal penalties possible in all cases.

“While I don’t believe in legalizing all drugs – as a career prosecutor I just don’t – we need to do the smart thing, the right thing, and finally decriminalize marijuana,” Harris said.

Sessions’ push for maximum sentences, she said, is a revival of the failed war on drugs, in which minorities were disproportionately incarcerated while the nation’s drug issues only grew worse over time.

“Instead of going after violent crime, drug cartels, and major traffickers, we’re worried about the neighborhood street-level dealer,” she said. “Instead of addressing the core issue of addiction and getting folks into treatment, we’re going to overcrowd and build more prisons.”

As the Sacramento Bee reported, Harris’ address comes as the freshman senator broadens her profile on a national media tour. She recently enjoyed an extended appearance on CNN’s “The Lead,” and gave the commencement address at Howard University, her alma mater.

Harris also called for cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, and singled out the drug policy issue as one that offers an opening for liberals and conservatives to work together. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and other conservatives, has also spoken out against Sessions’ harsh sentencing memo.

Many powerful members of the Democratic Party were present Tuesday. California Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and Maxine Waters were featured, while billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer made an appearance.

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Harris said she isn’t thinking about a run for president in 2020, but news reports from the conference indicated that progressive leaders were closely watching her with 2020 in mind.

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Gage Peake
Gage Peake
Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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