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The Biden-Harris Administration promised marijuana decriminalization and expungement, which advocates argue doesn’t go far enough.
Kamala Harris promised voters Monday a Biden Administration would not take any half-measures on cannabis reform, and promised a Biden-Harris pairing would decriminalize cannabis nationwide. The statement sent mixed messages, as would describe the Biden-Harris Administration’s plans a half measure.
Harris was participating in a roundtable event hosted by ABC and streamed on Facebook Live when cannabis reform came up.
“Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will decriminalize the use of marijuana and automatically expunge all marijuana-use convictions, and end incarceration for drug use alone,” Harris said. “This is no time, from our collective perspective, for half-steppin’.”
“This is no time for incrementalism,” she continued. “We need to deal with the system, and there needs to be significant change in the design of the system.
— New York Post (@nypost) September 15, 2020
Advocates view these words as half-steps due to previous statements by Harris, as a Senator and Democratic presidential candidate. In a Medium post outlining her criminal justice platform, Harris wrote that “it is past time to end the failed war on drugs, and it begins with legalizing marijuana.”
She also was the lead Senate sponsor on the Marijuana, Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove cannabis as a Schedule I drug and effectively legalize cannabis nationwide. The House will vote on a version of the bill this month, although it is not expected to receive a vote in the Senate.
Although Harris has significantly evolved her cannabis views over her career, presidential candidate Joe Biden does not support legalization. Instead he believes more research on marijuana’s effects before ending prohibition. His policy is as Harris stated above: decriminalization and expungement.
“While I applaud Kamala Harris’s focus on criminal justice reform, and in particular expungement and decriminalization of cannabis offenses at the federal level, true reform will require more,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment.
“Removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession is an important first step. But as we have seen in states around the U.S., decriminalization alone will not stop the arrest and persecution of people of color—or so many others touched by the war on cannabis,” he said. “It is only when we take a comprehensive approach through the framework of legalization that can we move away from the cycle of abuse.”
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