By Brian Henry
Sen. Kamala Harris' acknowledgement that she's smoked marijuana in the past was a big step toward removing the stigma and misinformation around cannabis, the co-founder of a cannabis advocacy group told Cheddar.
"It's a huge step actually," said Christine De La Rosa. "I'm glad that she was willing to talk about that."
De La Rosa is a co-founder of The People's Dispensary, a California-based company that works to encourage equity in the cannabis industry. The group advocates for using the sales tax dollars collected from the cannabis industry to rebuild communities that were harmed by the criminalization of pot.
"One of the things that we have been really taught during the war on drugs and 'say no to drugs' around cannabis specifically was that it was a gateway drug, it was a bad drug," De La Rosa said. "And it's not a drug, it's a plant."
Harris, a 2020 Democratic hopeful, said Monday during an appearance on "The Breakfast Club," a New York City-based radio show, that she supports decriminalizing marijuana and said that she had smoked pot in the past, adding: "I did inhale."
Harris demonstrated that candidates have come a long way since 1992, when then-president elect Bill Clinton stressed that he "didn't inhale" when he admitted to experimenting with marijuana. Barack Obama has since proved that past pot use is not a barrier to the White House. He opened about his marijuana use in his 1995 book, "Dreams From My Father."
Harris' public position on cannabis has also evolved as sentiment toward cannabis has warmed. In 2010, while serving as San Francisco attorney general, Harris opposed a ballot initiative that would have legalized weed.
But despite the flip-flop, De La Rosa said she "absolutely" expects people in the industry will get behind Harris.
As more states, including New York, weigh legalization, De Le Rosa called on communities to ask their politicians to advocate for the rights of people who were prosecuted for marijuana and now need assistance to rebuild their lives.
De La Rosa told Cheddar that "New York really is on the precipice of being on the gold standard," when it comes to creating a way forward for the people who have been prosecuted as the result of criminalization. De La Rosa says other states where pot was legalized haven't done enough to expunge the criminal records of people who were convicted under the old laws. She is hopeful New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will do more.
"We recommending that we have job training and job placement for people that have been in the industry in the informal economy, and how can we transition them into the formal economy? So, rather than giving a lot of money to say, enforcement, for them to be able to crack down on the informal economy, let's use that money to help the informal economy who has been doing this for years, decades even, and bring them into the formal economy. Help them get Secretary of State articles of incorporation. Help them get business licenses."
For full interview click here.