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Mexican Supreme Court Again Extends Marijuana Legalization Deadline

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The Mexican Supreme Court granted a request to again extend the deadline for the nation’s Congress to legalize marijuana on Friday.

Ever since the court declared in 2018 that the prohibition on personal possession and cultivation of cannabis is unconstitutional, lawmakers have been working to enact a policy change, accordingly. But while bills have been introduced to accomplish that, negotiations have taken longer than expected.

An initial deadline for legalization was set for October 2019, but Senate leaders requested an extension amid disagreements about legislation that was heading toward a vote. The court approved that request and said Congress had until the end of this month to reform the country’s marijuana policy.

But as the coronavirus pandemic forced lawmakers to put most legislative activities on hold, another extension was requested.

The new deadline for lawmakers to end prohibition is December 15鈥攖he end of the next legislative session. Politco.mx first reported the development.

Sen. M贸nica Fern谩ndez, president of the Senate’s Board of Directors, thanked the court for approving the extension.

Although lawmakers conceded they would not be able to meet this month’s deadline, substantial progress has been made nonetheless on the cannabis legislation.

During a joint meeting of the Justice, Health, Legislative Studies and Public Safety Committees last month, members approved a聽revised marijuana reform bill that had been circulated.

The proposal as introduced would聽allow adults 18 and older to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. Individuals could grow up to 20 registered plants as long as the total yield doesn鈥檛 exceed 480 grams per year. Medical patients could apply to cultivate more than 20 plants, however.

Personal possession would be capped at 28 grams, but possession of up to 200 grams would be decriminalized.

The Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis, a decentralized body established under the measure, would be established and responsible for regulating the market and issuing licenses for marijuana businesses.

The bill proposes a 12 percent tax on cannabis sales, with some revenue going toward a substance misuse treatment fund.

Public consumption would be permissible, except in spaces designated as 100 percent smoke-free. Hemp and CBD would be exempt from regulations that apply to THC products.

An earlier version of the legislation was approved by Senate committees last year ahead of the court鈥檚 October deadline.

Advocates have expressed frustration over the more recently revised version, noting that it hadn鈥檛 been changed to address their concerns.

They would like to enhance social equity provisions, provide protections for cannabis consumers and ensure that market empowers domestic farmers, especially those most impacted under the drug war鈥攁nd they hope that lawmakers will the new deadline extension to carefully consider their concerns and work them into an amended version of the legislation.

“We hope that this will give them the time to take up this issue again in the fall and that they will be able to integrate the changes that we have recommended, including taking away the very high and expensive sanctions for certain activities such as smoking in public,” Zara Snapp, a legalization activist with the Instituto RIA and the coalition #RegulacionPorLaPaz, told Marijuana Moment. “We also hope that this will provide them with the opportunity to integrate social justice into every aspect of the bill.”

“We believe that this bill is urgent for Mexico, particularly once we get past the pandemic and are ale to restart the economy. Regulating cannabis will be a key measure that could be used to generate formal jobs and provide a more just wage for people who are involved in this entire production chain,” she said.

Lawmakers Want Business Owners With Marijuana Convictions To Be Eligible For Coronavirus Relief

This story was updated to include comment from Snapp.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Trump, Asked About Harris’s Marijuana Record, Says ‘She Lied’

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President Trump weighed in on Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-CA) prior comments on marijuana shortly after she was announced as Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate on Tuesday.

While the president declined to explicitly discuss the senator’s cannabis policy positions after being pressed by New York Post reporter Steve Nelson, he said “she lied” and “said things that were untrue” when presented with details about an interview she gave last year in which she discussed smoking marijuana in college.

Harris, a former California prosecutor who has been widely criticized by advocates over he role in convicting people over marijuana and past dismissive comments about reform efforts, told The Breakfast Club that during her college days, she consumed cannabis and listened to rappers Tupac and Snoop Dogg. But as some quickly pointed out, the timeline didn’t match, as those artists hadn’t yet released their debut albums while she was in school.

Harris later conceded that she 鈥definitely was not clear about what I was listening to鈥 while consuming cannabis.

Nelson asked the president at a White House press briefing if he felt Harris’s “past on marijuana” is “a liability.”

“Well, she lied. I mean, she said things that were untrue. She is a person that鈥檚 told many, many stories that weren鈥檛 true,” Trump said before pivoting to criticism about her position on topics like taxes, fracking, military funding and health care.

The reporter followed up to ask whether “supporters of marijuana legalization should vote for you rather than her because she convicted so many people in the past.”

“I can鈥檛 tell you what she鈥檚 voting for. I don鈥檛 think she knows what. I think Joe knows even less than she does,” the president said without directly addressing the question.

It’s somewhat rare for Trump to comment on marijuana issues, but it’s notable that when presented with the opportunity to seize on Harris’s criminal justice record, he declined. It’s especially interesting given that his reelection campaign has been attacking Biden as an “architect” of the drug war who authored punitive laws during his time in the Senate and framing the incumbent president as the criminal justice reform candidate.

A majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, which makes it all the more curious that neither Trump nor Biden have sought to embrace the issue. Harris, for her part, is now the lead sponsor of a bill to federally legalize cannabis.

In any case, Nelson, the New York Post reporter, has made a habit of pressing Trump on cannabis policy. Last year, he cited studies about reduced opioid overdoses in states with legalization on the books and the president replied that “right now we are allowing states to make that decision” with regard to cannabis policy.

And when the reporter previously asked about Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) legislation to allow states to set their own marijuana policies, the president voiced tentative support, saying “I really do” favor the proposal.

鈥淚 know exactly what he鈥檚 doing. We鈥檙e looking at it,鈥 he said at the time. 鈥淏ut I probably will end up supporting that, yes.鈥

Both Trump and Biden are in favor of medical cannabis. And Biden has put forward plans to decriminalize marijuana possession, modestly reschedule the plant and facilitate expungements for prior cannabis convictions.

It remains to be seen whether Harris will push the former vice president to adopt a pro-legalization stance.

Where Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Stands On Marijuana

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Where Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Stands On Marijuana

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Joe Biden has selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his vice presidential running mate, the campaign announced on Tuesday.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s choice to join him on the ticket has evolved significantly on marijuana policy over her career. Though she coauthored an official voter guide argument opposing a California cannabis legalization measure as a prosecutor in 2010 and laughed in the face of a reporter who asked her about the issue in 2014, she went on to sponsor legislation to federally deschedule marijuana in 2019.

It remains to be seen whether she will push Biden in the same direction, as the former vice president has maintained opposition to ending marijuana prohibition聽despite supermajority support among Democrats.

While Harris, a former attorney general of California, made marijuana reform a major component of her criminal justice platform when she unsuccessfully ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, she’s been less vocal about the issue since dropping out in December 2019.

Convincing Biden to come around seems like a steep task in any case. Some advocates suspect that the Democratic National Committee’s platform committee voted against an amendment to add legalization as a 2020 party plank specifically because it’s at odds with the presumptive nominee’s agenda. Biden has drawn the line at decriminalizing marijuana possession, expunging past convictions, modest federal rescheduling, medical cannabis legalization and letting states set their own policies.

But it remains the case that Harris is the chief Senate sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act鈥攁 comprehensive piece of legalization legislation that includes various social equity and restorative justice provisions. Advocates will be watching to see if she continues to advocate for the reform move as she’s on-boarded to the Biden campaign.

The senator indicated in July that she doesn’t plan to push the presumptive presidential nominee on the issue.

Here’s a deeper look at where Harris stands on marijuana:

Legislation And Policy Actions

As noted, Harris’s most notable contribution with respect to cannabis reform legislation is her sponsorship of the MORE Act.

鈥淭imes have changed鈥攎arijuana should not be a crime,鈥 she said when introducing the bill. 鈥淲e need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives.

The senator first came out in support of legalization in 2018, adding her name to a different far-reaching bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). The legislation, the Marijuana Justice Act, would remove cannabis from the list of federally banned substances and also penalize states where marijuana laws are enforced disproportionately against people of color. She also cosponsored the 2019 version of the bill.

“Right now in this country people are being arrested, being prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail or prison all because of their use of a drug that otherwise should be considered legal,” she said in a press release. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do, it鈥檚 the right thing to do. I know this as a former prosecutor and I know it as a senator.”

Beyond the MORE Act and Marijuana Justice Act, Harris has also co-sponsored the SAFE Banking Act, which would protect banks that work with marijuana businesses from federal punishment.

The senator sponsored bills aimed at repairing land in California that鈥檚 been impacted by illicit cannabis grows and another piece of legislation that would protect people with drug convictions from losing public housing.

Harris also signed a letter alongside Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that called on the Justice Department to stop blocking federal research into medical cannabis. In a separate sign-on letter, she joined her colleagues in requesting that lawmakers include protections for legal cannabis states in a spending bill.

It is also worth noting that Harris touted her office’s drug enforcement actions on her website while running for reelection as San Francisco district attorney. One page said she “closed legal loopholes that were allowing drug dealers to escape prosecution,” and another bragged she “increased convictions of drug dealers from 56% in 2003 to 74% in 2006.”

Most Recent Comments And Actions Post-Presidential Campaign

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June, Harris discussed how a black man incarcerated over a marijuana offense died after contracting coronavirus. She stated that the case illustrated how “we have two systems of justice in America” based on race.

She and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) made a similar point in a letter to Attorney General William Barr that month.

Harris and two other senators wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in June, criticizing Republicans in the chamber for putting forth a policing reform bill that they argue is inadequate, in part because it does not ban no-knock raids in drug cases as House Democrats did in that chamber’s legislation.

The senator and 43 other members of Congress urged the Justice Department to investigate the death of 26-year-old black woman Breonna Taylor in a botched drug raid.

In April, she signed onto a letter to Senate leadership, imploring them to include language in coronavirus relief legislation that would allow marijuana businesses to access federal relief dollars just as companies in other industries can.

“Marijuana small businesses employ more than 240,000 workers and should be allowed to access coronavirus relief funds too,” she tweeted. “My colleagues and I are pushing to ensure they鈥檙e not left out of Congress鈥檚 next relief package.”

Also that month, Harris and 10 other senators sent a letter to leadership in a key committee asking that they add a provision allowing cannabis businesses to access federal loan services in spending legislation.

When the governor of Illinois issued pardons for more than 11,000 people with cannabis convictions the day before legal sales started, the senator said she applauded the decision.

“Expunging non-violent marijuana-related offenses is the right thing to do,” she said. “Now let鈥檚 legalize marijuana at the federal level.”

Harris joined a group of senators in December 2019 in pressing top federal drug and health agencies to provide an update on the status of efforts to increase the number of authorized marijuana manufacturers for research purposes.

Also that month, she and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers sent a letter to the Justice Department, requesting a policy change allowing researchers to access marijuana from state-legal dispensaries to improve studies on the plant鈥檚 benefits and risks.

On the unofficial marijuana holiday 4/20, Harris tweeted that the Senate “must pass my Marijuana Opportunity Act to legalize marijuana at the federal level and expunge non-violent marijuana-related offenses from the records of the millions who鈥檝e been arrested or incarcerated. Too many lives have been ruined by these regressive policies.”

Using loaded war on drugs rhetoric, she called President Trump a “drug pusher” for promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

On The Campaign Trail

During her presidential run, Harris released a criminal justice plan that says “it is past time to end the failed war on drugs, and it begins with legalizing marijuana.”

“It鈥檚 time to end mass incarceration,鈥 she tweeted the same day. 鈥淭his includes legalizing marijuana, sentencing reforms, and abolishing private prisons. With the addition of job training and education, these actions will reduce crime and help build healthy communities.”

After House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced a markup of the MORE Act in November, Harris wrote that the 鈥淲ar on Drugs was an abject failure鈥 and that it鈥檚 鈥渢ime to legalize marijuana and bring justice to people of color harmed by failed drug policies.鈥

鈥淕rateful for [Nadler鈥檚] partnership on this issue,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 look forward to getting our bill one step closer to becoming law.”

After the committee approved the legislation, Harris wrote, 鈥淣ot only do we need to legalize marijuana at the federal level, but we have to do it right and bring justice to communities of color鈥 and said the MORE Act would accomplish that.

鈥淟ast week, my bill to legalize marijuana passed through House committee with bipartisan support,鈥 she said. 鈥淚鈥檒l say it again: we can’t legalize marijuana without addressing the injustices to people of color caused by the War on Drugs. My bill would do just that.鈥

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), another presidential candidate, criticized Harris鈥檚 prosecutorial record during a Democratic debate in August. In a follow-up interview, the senator evaded a question about the exchange, dismissing the critique by stating that 鈥淚鈥檓 obviously a top tier candidate and so I did expect that I would be on the stage and take hits tonight because there are a lot of people that are trying to make the stage for the next debate.鈥

The Bay Area News Group analyzed the marijuana prosecution record of Harris and said the findings demonstrate that her history 鈥渋s more nuanced than those debate-stage confrontations indicate.鈥

Days after former Vice President Joe Biden, another presidential candidate, said he doesn鈥檛 support adult-use legalization because marijuana could be a gateway to more dangerous drugs, Harris tweeted 鈥marijuana isn’t a gateway drug and should be legalized.鈥

The candidate said that cannabis legalization is an example of an issue she鈥檚 changed her mind on over time during an interview with NowThis.

鈥淭he whole war on drugs was a complete failure,鈥 she said during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. 鈥淭hat approach is the gateway to America鈥檚 problem with mass incarceration.鈥 She didn鈥檛 directly answer a question about what made her change her mind about cannabis reform from prior opposition to legalization, however.

鈥淭he criminalization of marijuana has been such a big part of what has fueled America’s system of mass incarceration,鈥 she said.

“There are thousands of people labeled felons for life for selling marijuana, while people out there are making a fortune from the marijuana industry,鈥 the senator said. 鈥淭his is an injustice, and as president, I鈥檒l fix it.”

Prior to a House vote on legislation to protect banks that service cannabis businesses, Harris joined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and fellow presidential contenders Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in expressing concern about approving cannabis bills that would largely benefit the industry without first passing comprehensive legalization legislation.

鈥淲e shouldn鈥檛 do this without addressing the reality that people of color are being shut out of the legal marijuana industry,鈥 she said of the banking bill. 鈥淭hat means not only legalizing marijuana but also expunging criminal records and providing a path for people of color to enter the industry.鈥

Following the vote in favor of the legislation, Harris tweeted that the reform is 鈥渋mportant, but it’s not enough鈥 and that we 鈥渘eed to legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and create paths for people of color to enter the legal marijuana industry.”

鈥淲e must ensure that as marijuana becomes a bigger business, we are committing ourselves to rebuilding communities that have been disproportionately targeted by failed drug policies and creating a diverse industry going forward,鈥 she wrote in an op-ed for CNN. 鈥淚f we fail to address a system that has historically been infected by racial bias, communities of color will continue to shoulder the devastating impacts of the past.鈥

鈥淭imes have changed. We must get smart on marijuana reform and give everyone the opportunity to reap the benefits that come from the legal marijuana industry,鈥 she said.

After Illinois鈥檚 governor signed a marijuana legalization bill in June, Harris said she鈥檚 thankful that 鈥渟tates like Illinois are stepping up to correct the mistakes of our past鈥 and that it鈥檚 鈥渢ime to do the same at the federal level.鈥

鈥淎s the marijuana industry continues to grow, there are people of color sitting behind bars for doing the exact same thing. It’s time we changed the system,鈥 Harris said at a conference in April 2019, adding that those most impacted by the war on drugs should be prioritized when it comes to job opportunities in the legal industry.

She also pledged to pardon some non-violent drug offenders if elected president.

鈥淲e have to have the courage to recognize that there are a lot of folks who have been incarcerated who should not have been incarcerated and are still in prison because they were convicted under draconian laws that have incarcerated them鈥 for what is essentially a public health issue,鈥 she said.

In November, Harris discussed the need for industry equity and joked about businesses claiming that rubbing CBD lotion all over one鈥檚 body is a cure-all.

The senator said that drug addiction should be treated as a health issue and “not in jails and prisons,鈥 adding that people with prior cannabis convictions should be “first in line” to get jobs in the legal market.

Harris also said she would implement “mental health care on demand and drug treatment on demand.鈥

鈥淐ountless Americans have felt the devastating ramifications of the War on Drugs鈥攎illions still remain incarcerated to this day,鈥 Harris said in March. 鈥淭his is a matter of public health, drug addiction, and economic security. I鈥檒l say it again as I did in 2008: it was a complete failure.鈥

“Our justice system continues to target and imprison young Black and Latinx Americans at high levels due to outdated, unjust marijuana laws,鈥 she wrote. 鈥淚鈥檝e said it once and I鈥檒l say it again: we must legalize marijuana across the country.”

She also discussed her views on marijuana and drug policy during a campaign stop in New Hampshire in July.

鈥淲e have to treat it as a public health issue, specifically on the issue of marijuana,鈥 Harris said. 鈥淲e incarcerated whole entire populations, in particular young men of color, for possessing marijuana, and they ended up being felons for life on an issue that was literally鈥攊f you look at it just in terms of the disparities in terms of who was arrested, who was incarcerated and who was abusing鈥攊t was just wrong.”

Previous Quotes And Social Media Posts

Harris has talked quite a bit about marijuana in speeches and on social media.

When then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, which provided guidance on federal marijuana enforcement priorities, she said the Justice Department shouldn’t be focused on “going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana.”

“This administration and Jeff Sessions want to take us back to the dark ages,” Harris said at the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference in 2017. “Sessions has threatened that the United States Department of Justice may renew its focus on marijuana use even as states like California, where it is legal.”

“Well, let me tell you what California needs, Jeff Sessions,” she said. “We need support in dealing with transnational criminal organizations, dealing with issues like human trafficking鈥攏ot going after grandma鈥檚 medicinal marijuana. Leave her alone.”

Harris hadn’t signed onto any marijuana reform legislation during the time she was going after Sessions. But she was using the battle to solicit signatures on a petition, a common tactic that politicians use to build email lists that they can later use for fundraising. Several House members pressured her and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to take stronger action by blocking Justice Department nominees until the Cole memo was restored.

The senator has repeatedly called for federal cannabis decriminalization, characterizing existing laws as “regressive policies” that have “ruined” many lives.

“We need to decriminalize marijuana,” she said. “We have a problem of mass incarceration in our country. And let鈥檚 be clear, the war on drug was a failed war. It was misdirected.”

She has also criticized the federal government for blocking military veterans’ access to medical cannabis.

“As states moves toward legalizing marijuana, let’s remember how many lives have been ruined because of our regressive policies,” Harris wrote. “We must focus on restorative justice.”

In a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone, Harris said “I started my career as a baby prosecutor during the height of the crack epidemic鈥攏ot all drugs are equal.”

“We have over-criminalized so many people, in particular poor youth and men of color, in communities across this country and we need to move it on the schedule,” she said. “Plus we need to start researching the effect of marijuana and we have not been able to do it because of where it is on the schedule.”

Harris congratulated Canada on its national legalization of marijuana in 2018.

Curiously, however, Harris also has a habit of referring to the war on drugs in the past tense鈥攁s if it isn’t the case that hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. are still being arrested for cannabis and other drugs every year.

“The war on drugs was a failure,” she said in 2017. “It criminalized what is a public health matter. It was a war on poor communities more than anything.”

She also accused Sessions of “resuscitating” the drug war.

During her time as a prosecutor, Harris said she “saw the war on drugs up close, and let me tell you, the war on drugs was an abject failure.”

“It offered taxpayers a bad return on investment, it was bad for public safety, it was bad for budgets and our economy, and it was bad for people of color and those struggling to make ends meet,” she said.

“I鈥檒l tell you what standing up for the people also means,” Harris said in 2015. “It means challenging the policy of mass incarceration by recognizing the war on drugs was a failure. And Democrats, on that point, let鈥檚 be clear also: now is the time to end the federal ban on medical marijuana. It is.”

During a speech announcing her presidential candidacy, Harris said, “Once and for all, we have got to call drug addiction what it is: a national, public health emergency. And what we don’t need is another war on drugs.”

Before Harris backed full legalization or federal decriminalization, she was supportive of rescheduling cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. Asked about the policy in 2016, she said “I would work to remove marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II.”

“We need to reform our criminal justice system and changing the marijuana classification and drug sentencing laws are part of that effort.”

At a debate that year, she predicted that California voters would approve full legalization via a ballot measure (which they did) and reiterated that “we have to do is move [marijuana] from Schedule I to Schedule II.”

“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 drugs in the schedule,” she said.

It is worth noting that Harris did not publicly endorse California’s successful 2016 cannabis legalization ballot initiative, though it is unknown how she personally voted on the measure.

Two years earlier, Harris told BuzzFeed that while she wasn’t ready to back the idea of legalization, she was “not opposed” to it and that there was “a certain inevitability about it.”

“It would be easier for me to say, ‘Let’s legalize it, let’s move on,’ and everybody would be happy. I believe that would be irresponsible of me as the top cop,” she said. “The detail of these things matters… I don’t have any moral opposition to it or anything like that. Half my family’s from Jamaica.”

But amid an earlier attempt to legalize marijuana in California through a 2010 initiative that appeared on the same ballot as Harris’s candidacy for state attorney general, she called the measure a “flawed public policy.” Her campaign manager said she “supports the legal use of medicinal marijuana but does not support anything beyond that” and that she “believes that drug selling harms communities.”

She also co-authored an argument against the measure that appeared in the state’s official ballot guide, stating that legalization 鈥渟eriously compromises the safety of our communities, roadways, and workplaces.鈥

During a speech at The Commonwealth Club in 2010, Harris scoffed at a question about cannabis reform and said 鈥淚鈥檓 not a proponent of that, but I know that there are a lot of people who are. It鈥檚 not my issue.鈥 At the same event she spoke about prosecuting people for selling drugs, saying, “I don’t feel sorry for you and I’m not going to forgive you for committing a crime.”

Later, during her stint as attorney general, Harris received criticism from some marijuana policy reform advocates for not doing more to push back against federal prosecutors’ crackdown against locally approved California medical cannabis dispensaries during the first term of the Obama administration, though she did send a series of letters on the topic and made some public statements.

“The federal government is ill-equipped to be the sole arbiter of whether an individual or group is acting within the bounds of California’s medical marijuana laws when cultivating marijuana for medical purposes,” she wrote in a letter to the state’s U.S. attorneys.

She also called on state lawmakers to clarify California’s medical cannabis laws in a separate letter, which argued that reforms might ward off further federal intervention. “Without a substantive change to existing law, these irreconcilable interpretations of the law, and the resulting uncertainty for law enforcement and seriously ill patients, will persist,” she wrote.

鈥淐alifornians overwhelmingly support the compassionate use of medical marijuana for the ill. We should all be troubled, however, by the proliferation of gangs and criminal enterprises that seek to exploit this law by illegally cultivating and trafficking marijuana,” she said in a statement around the same time. “While there are definite ambiguities in state law that must be resolved either by the state legislature or the courts, an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California. I urge the federal authorities in the state to adhere to the United States Department of Justice鈥檚 stated policy and focus their enforcement efforts on 鈥榮ignificant traffickers of illegal drugs.’鈥

An analysis by the Washington Free Beacon determined that at least 1,560 people were sent to California state prisons for marijuana-related offenses during Harris’s tenure as attorney general.

In a 2008 book, Harris argued that nonviolent crimes 鈥渆xact a huge toll on America’s communities鈥 and that it鈥檚 鈥渋mportant to fight all crime.鈥

鈥淒rug crimes in particular exact a terrible toll and rob people young and old of hope,鈥 she wrote.

Harris’s overall evolution on cannabis can be neatly summed up with two videos. The first shows her being asked about marijuana legalization in 2014 in light of her Republican opponent for attorney general supporting it. She dismissively laughs off the question.

The second shows Harris during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing pressing President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee, William Barr, on whether he’d use Justice Department funds to go after marijuana businesses acting in compliance with state law.

Harris even attempted to crack her own marijuana joke during a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, though the late night host didn’t seem especially amused.

In her book, The Truths We Hold, she took her message in support of legalization a step further. Not only should we “legalize marijuana and regulate it,” but we should also “expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives,” Harris wrote.

鈥淲e also need to stop treating drug addiction like a public safety crisis instead of what it is: a public health crisis,” she also wrote, suggesting she may be in favor of broader drug policy reforms. 鈥淲hen someone is suffering from addiction, their situation is made worse, not better, by involvement in the criminal justice system.鈥

Harris’s presidential campaign website hosts a petition to legalize marijuana.

Personal Experience With Marijuana

Harris revealed in a radio interview that she smoked marijuana in college while listening to Tupac and Snoop Dogg, saying, “It gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy in the world.”

But that admission sparked a small controversy, with several people pointing out that neither artist had released their debut albums prior to Harris graduating. She conceded in November that she 鈥 definitely was not clear about what I was listening to鈥 while consuming cannabis.

In a separate interview, the senator said that she knows people who have benefited from using medical cannabis.

Marijuana Under A Biden-Harris Administration

Both Harris and Biden have evolved their positions on cannabis over time. Harris, a former prosecutor who campaigned against legalization in her own state has become the lead sponsor of a bill to federally legalize marijuana. Biden, who authored punitive drug legislation during his time as a senator, now supports modest cannabis reforms such as decriminalization and rescheduling, though he continue to oppose legalization. If the Democratic ticket gets elected, it remains to be seen to what extent the new administration would prioritize drug policy reform efforts and whether Harris would seek to encourage Biden to get behind full legalization.

Where Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Stands On Marijuana

Photo element courtesy of California Attorney General’s Office.

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Wyoming Judge Dismisses Marijuana Charges Against Hemp Farmers

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The state treasurer, House majority floor leader and House Judiciary Committee chairman testified in support of the farmers.

By Andrew Graham, WyoFile.com

CHEYENNE鈥擜 Laramie County judge threw out drug trafficking charges against hemp advocates and farmers Debra Palm-Egle and Joshua Egle Thursday, finding prosecutors lacked probable cause that the mother-and-son duo intended to grow and distribute marijuana.

At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, Laramie County Circuit Court Judge Antoinette Williams also dismissed charges against a contractor and his wife, Brock and Shannon Dyke, who worked for the farmers and were on the property when the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation聽raided it聽in November 2019.

Prosecutors sought to charge all four with conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess marijuana; possession with intent to deliver marijuana; possession of marijuana and planting or cultivating marijuana. All but the last are felonies. The judge dismissed all charges, including a misdemeanor marijuana charge, a court clerk said Friday.

Lawyers for the defendant argued, and the judge ultimately ruled, that the farmers had intended to produce hemp, not marijuana. The day of the raid, Brock Dykes showed DCI agents the results of tests conducted on the crop that indicated it contained less than 0.3% THC.

Under Wyoming鈥檚 hemp statutes, the crop has to have a THC-concentration limit below 0.3%. Marijuana and hemp are derived from the same plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the chemical in marijuana that gets users high. Its low presence in hemp keeps the crop from being categorized a drug.

Acting on a tip, DCI ultimately seized 700 pounds of hemp from the Egles鈥 farm. When agents ran it through a series of their own tests, most test results came back with THC concentrations higher than 0.3%. The highest result was 0.6%.

Laramie County Assistant District Attorney David Singleton, who prosecuted the case, argued that any plant testing over 0.3% is marijuana, not hemp. The judge, however, said it was clear the farmers intended to grow hemp, citing as evidence Dyke鈥檚 presentation of earlier test results to DCI and the Egles鈥 long history as hemp farmers.

Reached by phone Friday, Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove declined to comment on the case.

The dismissal of the case at such an early stage in criminal procedures 鈥 during a preliminary hearing 鈥 is unusual. Tom Jubin, a lawyer for the Egles, said that during his decades-long career this was only the third of his cases to end at that early stage.

鈥淚t鈥檚 pretty rare but it鈥檚 also pretty rare that a prosecutor would take a case like this and push it,鈥 Jubin told WyoFile after the judge鈥檚 verdict.

鈥淧lease, have the courage to get these people home,鈥 Jubin asked the judge during his closing remarks. In June, a different judge restricted Deborah Palm-Egle to Laramie County, though her home is in Colorado, her son told WyoFile.

Judge Williams鈥 own comments before her verdict were brief.

She understood why prosecutors had chosen to bring the case, she said, but did not believe they had probable cause. She also reprimanded the Egles, who had begun growing their hemp crop without a license while state and federal authorities were still developing rules for the newly legalized crop.

The Egles were prominent activists in front of the Legislature who helped push Wyoming鈥檚 hemp bill through. House Majority Floor Leader Eric Barlow (R-Gillette), who took the witness stand Thursday, testified that he knew the Egles and understood them to be hemp farmers with no intention of growing marijuana. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Dan Kirkbride (R-Chugwater) and Wyoming State Treasurer Curt Meier submitted statements with similar testimony in support of the Egles.

As such, the Egles 鈥渒new the law as well as anyone,鈥 Williams said, and should have been licensed.

Under Wyoming statute, the Egles could face a $750 fine for growing hemp without a license. Such a penalty is a far cry from the decades of prison time they could have gotten if convicted on prosecutors鈥 charges.

After the judge鈥檚 ruling, Shannon Dykes rushed to tearfully embrace Palm-Egle, who is in a wheelchair. 鈥淭hank God it鈥檚 over,鈥 Palm-Egle said.

Joshua Egle began growing what he described as a test crop of hemp for research purposes before he got his license, he told WyoFile after the hearing. Working in unfamiliar soil, it would take time for farmers to understand how to harvest the plants at the right time to keep THC concentrations legal, he said.

At the time, he was betting officials would soon work out the new industry regulation kinks and allow him to license the crop, he said. In the meantime, 鈥渨e had to get going,鈥 he said.

The Egles, and other hemp proponents, have pitched the crop as a new outlet for Wyoming鈥檚 farmers, and a viable path for economic diversification for a state struggling with its dependence on the energy industry. Egle will continue to pursue hemp farming in Wyoming, he said.

The raid

On Nov. 4, the Dykes were at the Egles鈥 property in Albin, a farming village in eastern Laramie County near the Nebraska line. The Egles, who live principally in Colorado, were not home. Brock Dykes was taking advantage of fresh snow to burn some waste wood, he told WyoFile in an interview after the judge鈥檚 verdict Thursday.

Dykes and his wife were standing outside and saw a line of unmarked cars, and one Wyoming Highway Patrol car, coming toward the property, he said. Their first thought was someone had called in concern about the smoke, he said. His two sons, then 11 and 12 years old, were inside the farmhouse.

Law enforcement officers, who ultimately turned out to be DCI agents, came out of the cars in tactical gear and with rifles pointed at the couple, the Dykes said, yelling at them to 鈥減ut their fucking hands up.鈥 Brock Dykes saw 鈥渇ive or six officers with a battering ram鈥 approaching the door of the house where his sons were, he said. He yelled that it was unlocked and they didn鈥檛 use the ram.

Officers trained guns on the two boys as well, the Dykes said. It was 45 minutes to an hour before Shannon Dykes was able to see her sons, she said.

The investigation had begun when a 鈥渞eliable source of information鈥 called DCI concerned that the Egles were growing marijuana, according to the charging documents. DCI agents visited the farm several times and spotted what they believed to be marijuana plants drying in an open barn.

DCI agents never contacted the Egles, either before the raid or during the five months between the raid and pressing felony charges, according to the DCI investigator鈥檚 testimony during the trial.

鈥淵ou sought charges against these farmers for crimes that carry decades of prison time without ever talking to them?鈥 Jubin asked DCI Special Agent John Briggs, who led the investigation, during the hearings.

鈥淚 did not interview them, no sir,鈥 the investigator answered.

The Dykes were never handcuffed during the raid, they said. Testimony during the preliminary hearing, which took place over two afternoons in July and August, established that Brock Dykes tried to explain the Egles were growing hemp. He showed officers the THC testing results Joshua Egle had sent him, which were on his cellphone.

Briggs was not interested in those results at the time of the raid, Dykes told WyoFile. Briggs told Dykes 鈥淚鈥檓 not going to argue with you about the technical difference between hemp and marijuana,鈥 Dykes said.

The Dykes鈥 attorney, Michael Bennett, asked the judge to consider what kind of criminal would 鈥渟how [testing] proof to agents, as if it were some elaborate ruse to grow the worst marijuana in the entire universe.鈥

DCI agents confiscated 722 pounds of plants, according to the affidavit. During the court hearings, Briggs testified that then-agency director Steve Woodson, and then assistant-director Forrest Williams drove a vehicle to the farm to collect the crop. Woodson retired in early 2020, and Williams is today the agency鈥檚 interim director.

Though relieved at the judge鈥檚 action Thursday, the Dykes remain angry at the DCI agents and prosecutors who brought such heavy charges against them. The young couple and small business owners have had to pay for weekly drug tests since early June, and spent considerable money on a lawyer, they said.

鈥淭his is all very, very surreal,鈥 Dykes said.

The hemp industry has now progressed in Wyoming, and a number of people around him are growing the crop, he said. 鈥淗ow many more people are growing right now whose neighbor is going to call the police?鈥 he said.

WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

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