In an interview on New York City radio show The Breakfast Club, U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris said she supports legalizing marijuana and that she smoked it "a long time ago" in college. She added "and I did inhale," referring to Bill Clinton's famous claim that he did not.
"I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy in the world," said Sen. Harris, who announced her presidential run last month. When host Charlamagne tha God told her people think she opposes legalizing weed, she responded, "That’s not true," jokingly adding, "Half my family is from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?"
Sen. Harris' mixed prosecutorial record has been under scrutiny since she announced her run, and she hasn't always been as pro-legalization. In 2014, she was on the record laughing when asked whether she wants to legalize — which was not read as opposition, but not exactly as support. She also did not back California's cannabis legalization ballot measure, which was later approved.
Like other mainstream Democrats in recent years, she has evolved on marijuana policy, which has earned her an A rating from NORML. In her new book, released last month, Sen. Harris wrote that she thinks it's time to legalize. "We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it," she wrote, emphasizing the fact that people of colour are disproportionately arrested for marijuana offences. "And we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offences from the records of millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives."
Last year, Sen. Harris supported fellow presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker's bill to decriminalize the drug. "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," she said then.
Still, there's a steady stream of disinformation framing her as an anti-weed "cop." Over the past few days, a fake tweet attributed to Sen. Harris went around that read, "If I see marijuana you're going to jailiana."
Her 2020 campaign's national press secretary Ian Sams confirmed that the tweet was — obviously — fake, and urged people not to believe everything they read online. "We are not, and will not be, the only target," he cautioned. "Be smart about what you see online. Beware of virality as a measure of scrutiny. Bad actors abound in this space."
According to a survey published by the Pew Research Center in January 2018, about 61% of Americans think marijuana should be legalized. Currently, 10 states and Washington, D.C., enjoy legalized recreational weed, while 33 have legalized medical marijuana.
Last week, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden introduced S. 420, a bill to decriminalize marijuana federally and allow for it to be taxed and regulated.
Sen. Harris is not the only current or potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to back legalization. In addition to Sen. Booker, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren have also supported legalization efforts.