kamala harris cannabis

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Kamala Harris Steps Back On Federal Cannabis Legalization Stance

March 3, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris may have flip-flopped on advocating for federal cannabis legalization, instead adopting a much more modest stance of decriminalization and expungements favored by President Joe Biden. 

Harris, who in 2019 championed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act that would legalize adult-use cannabis on the federal level, has largely abandoned the pro-legalization narrative that was a hallmark of her own presidential campaign. And according to a new Bloomberg report, an aide on Harris’s team has said the vice president’s “positions are now the same as Biden’s.”

Kamala Harris Changes Her Mind Again on Federal Cannabis Legalization 

In 2010, Harris was in staunch opposition of marijuana legalization in her home state of California, where she actively campaigned against an initiative to legalize the plant during her time as the state’s attorney general. In a voter guide, she claimed that the measure compromised the safety of communities, roadways, and workplaces in the state. 

In 2018, Harris took on a pro-legalization stance. She signed on to de-schedule legislation at the federal level. 

But in 2021, her positioning seems to have shifted again. While she has not officially announced that she is opposed to the federal regulation of cannabis, consistent shifts in rhetoric have indicated that she supports expungement and decriminalization, but not legalization. 

Democratic Senators to Introduce Bill in 2021

How exactly Harris’s apparent shift will impact marijuana reform remains a mystery. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) plan to introduce a legalization bill this session — one that will likely include parts of Harris’s MORE Act. 

Harris’s stance on legalization could be especially impactful in the Senate, as the chamber is split evenly among Democrats and Republicans. Should the legislation put forth by Democrats result in a tie, Harris would be called to cast the tie-breaking vote. 

Contributed by Jack Berning