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Kamala Harris Calls For Marijuana To Be Rescheduled 'As Quickly As Possible'

Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday called on the federal government to move “as quickly as possible” to change the way it officially classifies marijuana, saying that “nobody should have to go to jail for smoking weed.”

“I cannot emphasize enough that they need to get to it as quickly as possible,” Harris said. “We need to have a resolution based on their findings and their assessment. This issue is stark when one considers the fact that on the schedule currently, marijuana is considered as dangerous as heroin ― as dangerous as heroin ― and more dangerous than fentanyl, which is absurd, not to mention patently unfair.”

Marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration. That classification designates it one of the most dangerous drugs possible, with no medicinal uses. Other substances in the same category include heroin, ecstasy and LSD. Marijuana advocates have been pushing for years for the federal government to either reschedule marijuana to a different category or deschedule it entirely.

Harris was speaking at a meeting at the White House with people who received pardons from President Joe Biden for marijuana-related offenses. Rapper Fat Joe, aka Joseph Cartagena, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) were also in attendance.

Biden issued mass pardons to thousands of people convicted of low-level marijuana offenses in October 2022 and again in December 2023. Upon announcing the 2022 pardons, the president also ordered Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to begin the process of rescheduling marijuana.

Rapper Fat Joe speaks with Vice President Kamala Harris during a roundtable conversation about marijuana reform and criminal justice reform at the White House on March 15.
Rapper Fat Joe speaks with Vice President Kamala Harris during a roundtable conversation about marijuana reform and criminal justice reform at the White House on March 15. KENT NISHIMURA via Getty Images

Becerra announced that his agency had completed its review of the health dangers of marijuana and recommended that the DEA reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 3 drug. This would not legalize marijuana, nor would it reduce the legal burdens on the burgeoning marijuana industry, but it would make marijuana enforcement a significantly lower priority, reduce some criminal penalties and allow marijuana businesses access to certain tax deductions.

Harris’ comments are part of a recent push by Biden’s administration and his reelection campaign to highlight policies liberalizing access to marijuana.

“No one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said during his State of the Union speech.

This sentiment was echoed by Harris on Friday.

“No one should go to jail for smoking weed,” she said.

The comments by both Biden and Harris amount to “Nixon goes to China” moments for the two longtime drug warriors. In the 1980s and 1990s, Biden helped enact strict drug laws as a senator at the height of the War on Drugs. Harris, for her part, enforced California marijuana laws as a district attorney and the state attorney general while strongly opposing a marijuana legalization ballot initiative in 2010.

But today, marijuana legalization is widely popular, with over 70% of the U.S. population in support, according to a 2023 Pew poll.

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