Biden, Harris Advocate for No Jail Time for Marijuana, Despite Past Convictions

 May 18, 2024

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have recently voiced their opposition to jailing individuals for marijuana use, signaling a major policy shift.

This announcement coincides with the Justice Department's initiatives to downgrade marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug, Breitbart reported.

Vice President Kamala Harris has considerably transformed her stance on marijuana from her time as a prosecutor. With this policy realignment, both Harris and President Biden confirm a progressive approach that was once contentious for Harris during her prosecutorial career.

Harris's Past under the Microscope

During her campaign, Kamala Harris faced intense scrutiny, especially regarding her record as a prosecutor. In San Francisco and later as California Attorney General from 2011 to 2016, she oversaw nearly 2,000 marijuana-related convictions. This came to the forefront during a debate in 2019.

Former Representative Tulsi Gabbard did not hold back during the Democratic primary debate in July 2019. She pointed out a dissonance between Harris's past actions and her then-evolving political stance. This moment critically reflected on Harris's campaign narrative.

President Biden, aligning with this new vision, emphatically stated that incarceration for mere possession or use of marijuana is unreasonable. This aligns with a broader movement aimed at reforming the criminal justice system's approach to drug-related offenses.

Shift Toward Drug Reclassification

The Department of Justice currently lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which also includes drugs like heroin and LSD, considered to have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Advocates are pushing to reclassify marijuana to Schedule III, which would acknowledge its medicinal potential and lower the legal consequences associated with its use.

This legislative push represents a significant pivot from past drug enforcement policies that have disproportionately impacted several communities, echoing wider calls for criminal justice reform across the nation. Reflecting on her past and the future of drug policy, Kamala Harris confidently stated that no individual should face jail time for smoking marijuana. This statement signifies a consolidated effort by the current administration to address and rectify past policies.

Political and Personal Reflections

In an interview back in February 2019, Harris admitted to using marijuana, adding another layer of complexity to discussions about drug policy and criminal justice. Her candid acknowledgment brought a personal touch to her professional and political journey regarding marijuana legislation.

The numbers reported from 2011 to 2016 during Harris's term as the AG of California paint a stark picture: at least 1,560 people faced incarceration for marijuana-related offenses. Precise numbers from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation indicated around 1,974 people were jailed.

During a heartfelt reflection on her prosecutorial record, Kamala Harris expressed a forward-looking stance toward undoing the harm caused by past legal practices concerning marijuana offenses. She emphasized the importance of a transformation toward a more forgiving and rehabilitative legal approach.

During her conversation about these past actions and evolving views, Kamala Harris remarked: "We have pardoned tens of thousands of people with federal convictions for simple marijuana possession."

The recalibration of federal drug policies, particularly marijuana, underscores a broader national shift. As this shift continues, both President Biden and Vice President Harris remain at the forefront, advocating for policies that respect individual freedoms and recognize evolving societal values around marijuana use.

The redirection from heavy-handed legal sanctions towards a more rehabilitative and health-oriented approach aims to balance public safety and personal liberty. This policy reorientation reflects an administration willing to address, acknowledge, and amend its previous stances while preparing for a future that aligns more closely with public sentiment and scientific understanding of marijuana.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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