White House hopeful Kamala Harris aims to provide government subsidies to “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” who wish to start their own marijuana businesses.
The California senator has just published her criminal justice plan and a significant chunk of it is dedicated to marijuana law reform. She claims that individuals in areas most adversely affected by the war on drugs should be given funds to help minimize the barriers to them securing marijuana licensing and employment.
Harris announced that she favours marijuana legalization in February 2019. In July, she introduced a bill that seeks to decriminalize marijuana possession at a federal level and expunge past convictions.
At the time she was the clear favourite to secure the 2020 Democratic nomination for President, ahead of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. She has since slipped down to fourth in the betting, behind Warren, Biden, and Bernie Sanders, but she remains an extremely influential figure.
Harris is a former Attorney General for California and she was previously opposed to the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. She has since changed her tune and she admitted smoking weed during her college days.
Her plan includes legalizing marijuana at a federal level by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, and supporting states in their efforts to legalize it. She also wants to see convictions expunged and money reinvested in affected communities.
Harris pointed out that 88% of the 8.8 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010 were for simple possession, and that black people are around four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana offenses.
She wants to see three grant programs created. One would provide services like job training and legal aid to individuals most adversely impacted by the war on drugs. Another would provide states with the funds to make loans to socially and economically disadvantaged Americans who want to get into the marijuana industry, and the third would help minimize those barriers to secure employment or a license.
Fellow presidential candidate and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has also reiterated his campaign to see marijuana struck off from the Controlled Substances Act. He said it is safer than eating fries from a fast food restaurant.