Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a potential 2020 White House contender, is joining Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who is also speculated to be a possible presidential candidate, in the fight to legalize marijuana under federal law.
Harris announced Thursday that she will be co-sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, which Booker introduced in August.
The legislation would eliminate marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act. The move would also require federal courts to expunge the records of Americans who have prior marijuana convictions related to use or possession.
“It’s the right thing to do. And I know this as a former prosecutor. I know it as a senator,” Harris said in a video announcing her decision with NowThis. “I just look at what we want as a country and where we need to be instead of where we’ve been.
“African-Americans use marijuana at roughly the same rate as whites but are approximately four times more likely to be arrested for possession,” Harris said. “The fact is marijuana laws are not applied and enforced the same way for all people.”
Harris believes the move to decriminalize marijuana will prevent the Justice Department from enforcing laws that are “unjust and unfair.”
“The war on drugs was a war on communities,” Harris said, adding that police should be dealing with more serious drugs and crimes. “Not somebody smoking a joint.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in February announced that she would co-sponsor the act with Booker. Gillibrand is also considered to be a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, as is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who backs the bill as well.
So far, nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the drug for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. Michigan will hold a vote to legalize recreational pot this year, potentially making it the 10th state and first in the Midwest to legalize.