In a recent appearance on late night television. Vice President Kamala Harris said that while the current administration can take some actions on cannabis law reform, the U.S. Congress ultimately needs to take action to make sweeping changes.
“Nobody should have to go to jail for smoking weed,” she said on “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” echoing the same line used frequently by President Joe Biden. “We start with that, and we’re urging governors in states to take our lead and to pardon people who have been criminalized for possession of marijuana.”
Harris referred to Biden’s recent directive to the Department of Justice to create a program that will result in pardons for those with a federal conviction for cannabis possession. He also wants to reconsider marijuana’s current status as a Schedule I illegal drug.
Pitch for Mid-Term Election
During her appearance on the show, Harris did not say she favors legalization or support any specific bill. She said that only an act by Congress could create “a uniform approach” to cannabis law at the federal level.
“Ask who you’re voting for where they stand on this, and I urge you to vote accordingly.” Harris said. Given the administration’s stance on marijuana, the implication seemed clear.
Biden has repeatedly said he backs decriminalization of cannabis. The typical real-world result of that position is that people found with cannabis in states where it is not legal face a fine rather than incarceration. But he has stopped short of supporting legalization at the national level.
Is Cannabis Legalization a Partisan Issue?
Polls have found that both Democrats and Republicans support marijuana legalization, although Democrats tend to do so at higher levels than Republicans. Most legalization efforts have been successful in what are traditionally “blue” states, although that seems close to changing in some cases, especially with more studies finding that legalization does not lead to adverse consequences.
People in Oklahoma, for example, have made medical marijuana a popular issue in the state, while people in Missouri will decide in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana. Congressional Republicans also have filed a States Reform Act that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and leave the issue of legalization to each state.
All Democrats have not supported legalization, either, including the president himself. During the election campaign, Biden stood in a minority among Democratic candidates as not favoring legalization, instead favoring decriminalization. That put him at odds with other candidates, including Harris, who supported legalization during the campaign.
Sen. Cory Booker, another presidential candidate who favors national legalization, said recently that he still hopes to pass cannabis law reform before the end of the current congressional sessions.