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Kamala Harris Introduced A Bill To Decriminalize Weed & Erase Past Convictions

Jul 23, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a marijuana decriminalization bill on Tuesday that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The bill would also expunge marijuana convictions, tax marijuana to generate revenue, and then use those funds to help people who’ve been convicted of marijuana offenses. The bill underscores just how far the California senator’s views have come since she was a district attorney in San Francisco who opposed marijuana legalization.

Harris wrote the bill, called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, and teamed up with House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, who is co-sponsoring it, according to USA Today. Harris says in a statement that "Times have changed—marijuana should not be a crime."

"We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives," she says in the statement. "As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone—especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs—has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry."

The goal of Harris’ bill isn’t just to decriminalize weed nationwide. The revenue generated by taxing its sale would go into three trust funds that support people with past marijuana convictions and people who want to go into the marijuana business. Here’s a breakdown of the bill and Harris’ past views when she was a prosecutor.

What Does This Bill Do?

The bill will decriminalize weed at the federal level, but it wouldn’t tell states what they have to do. Under decriminalization laws, having small amounts of weed usually doesn’t result in a charge, though it does sometimes carry a fine. Under legalization, there are no penalties or fines for having weed and sale of it is usually allowed, according to Vox.

Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states and Washington D.C.; some form of medical marijuana is legal in 33 states; and possession of small amounts of weed is decriminalized in 26 states, according to The Hill. Harris’ bill doesn’t prevent states from continuing to criminalize weed if they want to, which means that in some states, you could still be charged for having it even if her bill passes, according to Vox.

Under current law, when you’re arrested for a marijuana-related crime, you are also charged with a federal crime under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Harris’ bill would get rid of that federal charge.

More to come …

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