Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) plans to make government loans available to “economically and socially disadvantaged” Americans seeking to launch marijuana businesses, she revealed as part of a broader criminal justice plan released Monday.
Harris, who has been criticized by progressives over her record as a prosecutor, calls for a restorative justice approach to marijuana legalization that would direct the resulting economic benefits to the communities that she argues have been most harmed by the war on drugs. As part of this approach, Harris would direct federal funds to states and local governments that would then provide presumably low-interest marijuana business loans to individuals deemed “disadvantaged.”
“Provides states and localities with funds to make loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals,” the criminal justice plan reads.
Harris would fund these loans through a “sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products.”
Harris now supports legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level and retroactively expunge the records of those convicted on marijuana-related charges, but her support for legalization represents a departure from the stance she maintained as a prosecutor and as a freshman lawmaker.
In her six years as California attorney general, Harris jailed 1,974 people on marijuana-related charges. As recently as 2014, Harris laughed when asked about the Republican California attorney general’s support for legalization and, in 2010, she opposed a California measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana in the state.
Harris also faced paternal backlash after she insinuated during a radio interview that she hailed from a family of marijuana users.
“Half my family’s from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?” Harris said when asked if she smoked marijuana in her youth.
Harris’s father responded by accusing his daughter of shaming the family.
“My dear departed grandmothers (whose extraordinary legacy I described in a recent essay on this website), as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics,” he wrote.
Of the top-tier Democratic presidential aspirants, former vice president Joe Biden is the only one who has not yet endorsed federal legalization.