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Kamala Harris’ Conviction of Marijuana Put Back into Focus Because of Biden

Vice President Kamala Harris’ record of securing convictions for marijuana-related offenses could be put back into the spotlight after President Joe Biden pardoned people convicted of simple possession under federal law.

On Thursday, Biden made the decision to grant the pardons and also asked the secretary of health and human service and the attorney general to “expeditiously” review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. 

This move, however, will not affect the nearly 2,000 people who were convicted while Harris was the San Francisco district attorney because those convictions were not made at the federal level.

Biden asked governors to consider taking similar steps when it comes to state-level offenses for possession of marijuana, which potentially impacted those convicted while Harris was district attorney. 

According to data from the district attorney’s office reviewed by The Mercury News in 2009, Harris served as San Francisco DA from 2004-2011, and during that time, attorneys at her office secured 1,956 misdemeanor and felony convictions for marijuana possession, cultivation, or sale.

These numbers included people who were convicted of more serious crimes as well as possession of marijuana, and California attorneys who worked on the cases told The Mercury News that many of those convicted of low-level marijuana possession were never sent to prison. 

Niki Solis, a high-ranking attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender’s office while Harris was district attorney, told the outlet in 2019, “There is no way anyone could say that she was draconian in her pursuit of marijuana cases.” 

Harris served as California attorney general from 2011 to 2017, but the vast majority of marijuna-related prosecutions are conducted by county district attorneys, who are elected locally. 

Since then, Harris has come out strongly in favor of the decriminalization of marijuna. In 2017, she supported the SAFE Banking Act, which allowed banks to work with marijuna businesses and avoid potential punishment from the federal government. 

Harris backed the Marijuna Justice Act in 2018. That act would have removed marijuna from the Controlled Substances Act and allowed states to legalize it. She also supported other legislation that would do the same.


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