The political rise of Senator Kamala Harris: From California attorney to Congress
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California — who recently announced a run for president — said in a radio interview Monday that she’s smoked weed and supports legalizing the drug.
Harris also joked about a family-related reason to support legal marijuana.
Host Charlamagne tha God asked Harris on “The Breakfast Club” radio show about accusations that Harris opposes legalization.
“That’s not true,” Harris responded. “Look, I joke about it, I have joked about it. Half my family is from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?”
Harris also confirmed that, during college, she smoked marijuana.
“It was a long time ago, but yes. I just broke news,” she said, adding that “it was a joint.”
And she answered another question on everyone’s mind.
“I did inhale,” Harris joked — a contrast with former President Bill Clinton, who famously said during his run for the White House in 1992 that he dabbled with marijuana in his 20s, but “didn’t inhale, and never tried it again,” according to Time magazine.
Critics (and comedians) pounced on Clinton.
“That’s the trouble with the Democrats,” late night host Johnny Carson said at the time, according to Time. “Even when they do something wrong, they don’t do it right.”
Harris served as California’s attorney general before joining the Senate after the 2016 election, and before that she served as district attorney in San Francisco. She’s the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, and she grew up in the East Bay.
But as district attorney, Harris came out against a 2010 proposition that would have legalized weed in California, citing the risks of drivers getting behind the wheel while high, according to BuzzFeed. As recently as 2015 she was against recreational legalization in the state.
Attitudes on marijuana have changed significantly in recent years, and politicians’ stances on the drug have followed: About 80 percent of Americans thought marijuana should be illegal in 1990, compared with just over 30 percent today, according to the Pew Research Center. Roughly 60 percent of Americans now support legalizing pot, Pew researchers found.
Hosts of the New York-based radio program also asked Harris Monday if she would try weed again if it were legalized at the national level. Recreational use of the drug is already legal in her home state and many others.
“Listen, I think it gives a lot of people joy,” Harris responded, according to Politico. “And we need more joy.”
New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, another senator seeking his party’s presidential nomination, introduced legislation in 2017 to legalize marijuana across the U.S. — a bill that “all but forced contenders to take a stance on the legalization of marijuana” as they campaign for the presidency, Politico reported.
Harris backed that bill last year, announcing her support with a video posted to Twitter.
“It’s the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do — and I know this as a former prosecutor,” Harris said at the time. “The fact is that marijuana laws are not applied and enforced in the same way for all people.”
She pointed to racial disparities in particular.
“African Americans use marijuana at roughly the same rate as whites but are approximately four times more likely to be arrested for possession. That’s just not fair,” Harris said. “We need to change the system.”