Kamala Harris’ marijuana record: How the California Democrat’s views on pot have evolved
California Sen. Kamala Harris’ relationship with pot has grown over the years.
Today, the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful has boasted about smoking weed as a college student. She recently relived her glory days on the popular New York City-based radio program “The Breakfast Club,” telling hosts DJ Envy, Angela Yee and Charlamagne tha God that she’s “inhaled” from a joint “a long time ago.”
“I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy in the world,” Harris added, claiming she used to listen to Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur — though they didn’t release their albums during Harris’ college years — while she reportedly got high.
While most Democrats praised the senator’s down-to-earth comments, some pointed out they were a far cry from statements Harris made years ago.
Here’s a look back at how some of her views have evolved through the years.
2018-19: Time to dismantle ‘the failed war on drugs’
In her new book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” which was released in January, Harris calls for the legalization of weed.
“Something else it’s past time we get done is dismantling the failed war on drugs — starting with legalizing marijuana,” Harris wrote, according to Forbes.
“We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it,” Harris continued in her book. “And we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.”
During an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the late-night host showed off the cover of Harris’ book, noting she “looked very happy on the cover.”
“Yeah, and it’s not cause I smoked a joint or anything even though we legalized it,” she joked with Stephen Colbert.
In February, hosts of “The Breakfast Club” asked Harris to clarify rumors that she opposes marijuana legalization.
“That’s not true. Look, I joke about it, I have joked about it. Half my family is from Jamaica, are you kidding me.”
“That’s not true. Look, I joke about it, I have joked about it. Half my family is from Jamaica, are you kidding me,” she said, laughing.
But Harris said “we need to research the impact of weed on a developing brain” and said measuring how marijuana impairs people who are driving needs to be addressed.
Harris also supports a bill — introduced Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a rival for the Democratic presidential nomination — that would end the federal marijuana prohibition.
“Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do and it’s the right thing to do. Today, I’m announcing my support for @CoryBooker’s Marijuana Justice Act,” she tweeted in May 2018.
“Right now in this country people are being arrested, being prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail or prison all because of their use of a drug that otherwise should be considered legal,” Harris said in a news release announcing her endorsement of Booker’s bill in May 2018. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. I know this as a former prosecutor and I know it as a senator.”
2015: Democratic State Convention plea
At the 2015 Democratic State Convention, Harris said: “Now is the time to end the federal ban on medical marijuana.”
“I tell you what: Standing up for the people also means challenging the policy of mass incarceration by recognizing the war on drugs was a failure,” she told a roaring crowd, LA Weekly reported at the time.
Harris’ campaign issued a statement to the newspaper in May 2015, stressing Harris’ support of legalizing medicinal marijuana.
“Harris’ campaign wants to make it clear that the attorney general has been on record as supporting the rights of patients to obtain medical marijuana legally in California for several years,” the statement to LA Weekly read.
In another interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, Harris said it was “inevitable” that recreational use of pot would soon be legal in The Golden State.
“It’s easy to stand up and make a grand gesture, but we really do have to work out the details,” she said.
“But to be very clear … it’s not a passive position,” Harris continued, noting she’s not “morally opposed” to the legalization of pot. “I’m actually in constant communication with Washington and Oregon to watch what they are doing and to explore all of the options, to make sure we do this in a way that takes advantage of learning from their mistakes.”
However, Harris did clarify that she wanted to ensure the public stayed safe, particularly when it came to “safe driving” and “as it relates to children.”
2014: The famous laugh
In an August 2014 interview, a news reporter asked Harris — who was running for re-election as California’s attorney general — about her opinion on her opponent’s stance on legalizing recreational marijuana.
“Your opponent, Ron Gold, has said that he is for the legislation of marijuana recreationally. Your thoughts on that?” a KCRA-TV reporter prompted.
“Uh, I … he is entitled to his opinion,” Harris laughed, though she didn’t provide her position on the highly-debated issue.
Republican strategist Colin Reed noted Harris’ past record on pot would require further explanation as she hit the 2020 campaign trail.
“Harris will be forced to explain past positions that are anathema to liberals, such as defending the death penalty, laughing at the idea of marijuana legalization, and threatening parents with jail time for truancy,” Reed wrote in a Fox News opinion piece. “In politics, when you’re explaining, you’re losing.”
2010: Opposing Prop 19
In 2010, Harris was among a handful of lawmakers — including then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — to oppose Proposition 19, a measure to legalize recreational marijuana and allow it to be sold and taxed, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Then San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris called Proposition 19 a “flawed public policy.”
“Spending two decades in courtrooms, Harris believes that drug selling harms communities. Harris supports the legal use of medicinal marijuana but does not support anything beyond that,” Harris’ campaign manager Brian Brokaw previously told Capitol Weekly.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.