California Attorney General Kamala Harris hasn’t formally endorsed the state’s ballot measure to legalize marijuana, but she is predicting that voters will approve it on Election Day.
“The reality is that I believe the voters are gonna pass that initiative, and recreational marijuana will be legal in the state of California,” Harris said in a Wednesday night debate for the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D). “We have incarcerated a large number of predominantly African-American and Latino men in this country for possession and use at a very small scale of one of the least dangerous of all of the drugs in [Schedule I]… We need to end mass incarceration of young people in this country for use and possession of marijuana.”
Harris, a Democrat, has said that her current state position prevents her from issuing an endorsement of the ballot initiative.
Harris’s opponent for the Senate seat, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, also a Democrat, touted her co-votes for marijuana law reform legislation in the U.S. House. She also said she has pressured the White House on the issue.
“I have been one to tell President Obama, ‘Stop it already. Let California get this right,'” Sanchez said, adding that a medical marijuana dispensary in her Congressional district is unionized.
Two years ago, Harris literally laughed off a reporter’s marijuana question rather than answer it. More recently, however, she has taken the issue much more seriously, saying there is a “certain inevitability” to the end of cannabis prohibition.
In the Senate debate, she called for marijuana to be reclassified under the Controlled Substances Act. “On the federal level, what we have to do is move it from Schedule I to Schedule II,” she said.
In the House, Sanchez has consistently voted in favor of amendments to protect state medical marijuana laws from federal interference and supported an amendment last year to extend the protection to all state marijuana laws, including those allowing recreational use.
A number of establishment figures in California have begun to line up in favor of the marijuana legalization measure, Proposition 64, whereas almost none spoke in favor of Proposition 19, a measure to end cannabis prohibition which the state’s voters narrowly defeated in 2010.
For example, Proposition 64 itself was drafted by a coalition brought together by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D). In 2010, the then-mayor of San Francisco couldn’t bring himself to even issue a public endorsement of what could have been the first successful statewide measure to legalize marijuana.
And a number of prominent newspaper editorial boards — the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, for example — have endorsed this year’s measure.
Boxer, the retiring U.S. senator that Harris and Sanchez are vying to replace, said that she’s “leaning in favor” of this year’s measure, whereas she opposed the one six years ago.
And while Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has been quick to trash the idea of legalizing marijuana whenever asked about it in the past, he told the Chronicle’s editorial board in a meeting last month that he is “mulling” whether to reverse his position and support Proposition 64.
Surveys have consistently shown the measure earning majority support from California voters.
Polls show Harris leading Sanchez in the Senate race.
Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.