Kamala Harris is gravely wrong about rescheduling marijuana

Recently Vice President Kamala Harris convened a roundtable about marijuana and criminal justice reform with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), rapper Fat Joe, and individuals previously convicted of the offense of simple possession of marijuana who have been pardoned by President Biden.

The message Harris delivered was simple: the Biden administration believes that “no one should be jailed for simply using” marijuana. But Harris took her comments a step further, stating to the group and assembled media that it’s “absurd” that marijuana is a Schedule I drug.

First, we should address what Harris left unsaid. Since his election, Biden has demonstrated that criminal justice reform is possible without commercializing today’s industrialized, high-potency THC drugs or legalizing dangerous psychoactive drugs.

Second, we should also address who was not in attendance at the meeting. There was no one representing social justice advocates, scientists and public health experts concerned about the harms of marijuana commercialization. Many of these experts have studied the socioeconomic effects of lax marijuana policies, including the fact that pot shops are often concentrated in and target poorer and non-white communities on purpose, much like menthol cigarettes target Black communities. One of us, as the first drug czar for this nation’s first Black president, always said that “legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary” partially because of the disproportionate impact that addiction and drug use have on our most vulnerable.

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