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Sen. Kamala Harris Says Legalize It—and Oh Yes, She Inhaled

February 11, 2019
California Sen. Kamala Harris, a former opponent of state legalization, now says she's all in favor of national legalization. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Kamala Harris, the Democratic senator from California and 2020 presidential contender, clarified her views on cannabis on this morning during a remarkably frank interview with the popular New York City radio show “The Breakfast Club.”

'Half my family’s from Jamaica,' Harris said. 'Are you kidding me?'

In a wide-ranging conversation that also touched on questions of racial inequality and criminal justice reform, Harris dismissed accusations that she opposes legalization, and then offered listeners a bit of a bombshell: Yep, she’s smoked.

Although Harris wrote about cannabis reform in her 2018 book, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, this morning’s interview on New York’s Power 105.1 marked a turning point in her public support of legalization.

She now joins a handful of fellow vocally pro-legalization Democratic senators including Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders, whose public statements are helping to establish cannabis as a marquee national issue in the lead up to the 2020 election.

A Changed Position

Harris has drawn ire in the past for being slow to attach her name to cannabis reform bills and her opposition to California’s 2010 Proposition 19, which would have legalized cannabis in the state.

'Listen, I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy.'
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA

Harris was serving as San Francisco District Attorney at the time, and claimed that the proposition would lead to more “driving while high.” As recently as 2015, she made public comments that suggested she still opposed legalization.

Harris offered a drastically different opinion during her interview this morning. When host Charlamagne tha God asked the senator if she opposed legalization, she responded with a laugh: “Half my family’s from Jamaica,” she said. “Are you kidding me?”

Related

These Senators Are All Talk, No Action on Cannabis Legalization

Inhaled in College

Harris maintained a similar frankness throughout the segment, revealing that she smoked—at least one joint—“a long time ago” in college. “And I inhaled,” she quipped, in reference to Bill Clinton’s infamous defense of his own consumption. As the hosts broke out laughing, Harris made an apt observation: “I just broke news.”

Continuing on the subject, Charlamagne asked if the senator would consume cannabis again in a post-legalization world. Her response was as telling as it was curiously candid: “Listen, I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy,” she said to, naturally, more good-natured laughter.

Related

Kamala Harris Finally Endorses the Marijuana Justice Act

NORML: ‘A’ Rating

Despite her past rhetoric, Harris has earned an A rating from NORML. In her recent book, she draws clear lines between cannabis legalization and criminal justice reform: “We need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated,” she writes, “so they can get on with their lives.”

While critics will likely continue to question Harris’ sincerity on the issue, her interview this morning reflects growing support across the country for federal legalization. A poll conducted last October found that nearly two in three Americans believe cannabis should be legal. As Sen. Harris made clear his morning, a handful of presidential hopefuls are eager to make that aspiration a reality.

Max Savage Levenson's Bio Image

Max Savage Levenson

Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.

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  • BA5578

    How convenient that she’s changing her opinion just in time for the campaign season. But hey, NORML believes her!!??

  • YearofAction

    Before we create a premature and fragile legalization of marijuana, the first thing we need to demand from Congress is a constitutionally valid federal law that will carefully deschedule all cannabis plants. In other words, We the People should demand the activation of Section 5 cannabis descheduling.

    We should demand the recognition of our constitutional rights to grow and use cannabis plants. These rights were implied in the 9th and 10th Amendments, and ratified by the States, in 1791. This is what those Amendments originally meant with regard to cannabis:

    9th Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights (such as the right to bear arms), shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people (such as the right to grow and use cannabis plants).

    10th Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States (such as the power to control the uses of cannabis plants), are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    The federal law that established the prohibition of cannabis under the guise of marijuana prohibition was first enacted in 1937, updated in 1970, and updated again in 2018, yet its definition of “marihuana” still doesn’t clearly state what marijuana is.

    Furthermore, as citizens we should also demand the protection of our privileges and immunities with regard to cannabis, which were authorized by Section 1 of the 14th Amendment (ratified by the States in 1868), and compel the activation of the rule in Section 5 of the 14th Amendment to secure those rights, by contacting our members of Congress to enact this comprehensive reform that is actually the Necessary and Proper way to carefully deschedule the plant Cannabis sativa L.:

    The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is, as are the viable seeds of such plant, prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company, and such smoke is prohibited to be inhaled by any child or by any person bearing any firearm, as is the intake of any part or any product of such plant containing more than 0.3% THC by weight unless prescribed to such child by an authorized medical practitioner.

    While this reform retains the Schedule 1 status of marijuana to allow further consideration of the adulterated medical value that cannabis smoke derives from descheduled cannabis plants, it does show that there is a constitutionally valid way to define marijuana and retain the important prohibitions on cannabis use, but without the prohibition of cannabis itself. As well, it makes the subsequent removal of marijuana from Schedule 1 so much easier.

    The enactment of this 21st century reform will override the existing malformed federal definition of marijuana which led to the propagandized misconceptions, federal misnomers, and legal misconstructions that enabled the judiciary to allow the 20th century prohibition of cannabis in the U.S. without a Constitutional Amendment.

    That prohibition scheme based on misnaming cannabis was subsequently adopted around the world. However, the World Health Organization is now reconsidering its scheduling of marijuana. Let’s show them that the Necessary and Proper way to carefully deschedule cannabis is by citizens actively telling Congress how to rectify their definition of marijuana, as a counterpoint to the the desires of the lobbyists.

  • calvet11

    All you people who are cannabis friendly and vote should take a look at Senator Harris’s record as a prosecuting attorney and Attorney General in California. She likes herself some pot bust she does. So she smoked dope in college, did that come up on her application to that first law job?

  • calvet11

    What was wrong with that?

  • Gary Craig

    My governor, Larry Hogan R-MD, gets from NORML a D-. What that means is no adult use until 2021 after it’s been approved, via ballot referendum. That would, unfortunately, depend on the legislature. Or 2023 when, most likely, a Democrat takes the governorship. Then again, who knows, it might be another Republican? I hope not!!