Does it matter that the frontrunner to replace Barbara Boxer as the next U.S. Senator from California says she has “no moral objection” to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana?
Given that California is expected to legalize adult-use marijuana fairly soon, I’d say that yes, it does.
But what may be even more surprising about Kamala Harris’s stand on full legalization of pot in California is that right now, she’s the state’s Attorney General and chief law enforcement officer. And, when the people entrusted with enforcing the laws say that recreational marijuana is OK by them, well, it can’t do anything but help bring full legalization a big step closer to reality.
Legalization “is an inevitability”
Here’s what California’s top cop recently told the San Francisco Chronicle:
It’s easy to stand up and make a grand gesture, but we really do have to work out the details,” said Harris, who told The Chronicle that she believes “it is an inevitability” that recreational use of marijuana will be legalized in the state.
Harris’ comments were her first in-depth remarks since announcing that she would run in 2016 to fill the seat of Sen. Barbara Boxer, who announced last month that she would not run for re-election, and the first time as a Senate candidate that she has addressed marijuana legalization.
“But to be very clear,” she said of legalization, “it’s not a passive position,” adding that as the state’s senior law enforcement official, she has already been studying the impacts in Colorado and Washington state, where recreational use is legal. It becomes legal in Oregon later this year.
“I’m actually in constant communication with Washington and Oregon to watch what they are doing and to explore all of the options, to make sure we do this in a way that takes advantage of learning from their mistakes,” she said.
A U.S. Senator as a legalization advocate?
Here are a few things to keep in mind about all of this:
- Democrat Barbara Boxer, California’s outgoing U.S. Senator, has spoken out against the legalization of marijuana in the Golden State;
- Dianne Feinstein, California’s other U.S. Senate, is also on the record as being strongly against legalization and has even complained to the White House about the administration’s leniency when it comes to enforcing marijuana laws;
- Kamala Harris is the clear frontrunner (she’s the only declared candidate so far) to replace Boxer in Washington. Although there is some effort to push former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to run, he’s not polling well in that potential race so far;
- In other words, the U.S. Senate seat is Kamala Harris’ to lose, and she’s a popular and photogenic Attorney General and former District Attorney of San Francisco.
With California closing in on a ballot measure for recreational or adult marijuana, how important would it be to have one of the state’s two U.S. Senators be strongly behind the state’s legalization efforts? And, how much would it impact federal drug policy to have a U.S. Senator, from what could be the largest legal marijuana market in the world, as an advocate for legalization?
These are important questions as the push to legalize and mainstream marijuana moves ahead.
The importance of changing the discussion
Suffice it to say that having California’s former attorney general and possible new U.S. Senator on the side of legalization could have a huge impact on federal drug policy, especially if the next President isn’t as willing to look the other way as Obama has been.
Legalization isn’t just about changing the law; it’s also about changing the discussion and getting people in place who are open to changing the law, especially at the federal level.
Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are old-school Democrats who, frankly, don’t really reflect the changing demographics of California much any more. But with Boxer retiring and the 80-year-old Feinstein not too far behind, the Golden State has a golden chance to elect some U.S. Senators that no only better reflect the changing electorate, but who have a more progressive attitude when it comes to federal and state marijuana laws.
Kamala Harris is just the start but she’s a big start. And, its high time California sent someone to Washington with the want to inject some common sense to legalization at the federal level.