Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) have teamed up to introduce bills into their respective chambers that would decriminalize marijuana and expunge past marijuana-related convictions.

The legislation introduced by the pair of Democrats would prevent those with past marijuana-related convictions from being denied public benefits, as well as ensuring that immigrants would not be deported solely for marijuana use. The law would also provide grants for specific marijuana-related industries.

The new piece of legislation comes amid a nationwide push for the legalization of marijuana, as various studies conclude that the drug is not as harmful as once thought and that its criminalization disproportionately hurts minority groups. Removing marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances is a particularly popular idea among the 2020 Democratic candidates, with virtually all of them, including Harris, supporting the drug’s decriminalization.


Harri’s stance towards marijuana marks a considerable turnaround from the view that she held as California’s attorney general. During her tenure as the state’s prosecutor, Harris first opposed, then refused to take a side regarding the state’s efforts to decriminalize the drug.

Recently, the California senator has completely changed her attitude towards marijuana and now supports its complete legalization. “We need to start regulating marijuana and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives,” Harris said in a statement describing her new bill. “As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry.”

While marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, the Department of Justice has adopted a policy in which federal prosecutors will turn a blind eye to states’ legalization of the drug as long as that state meets certain requirements, such as not seeling the drug to minors. With Harris and Nadler’s new push for decriminalization in Congress, as well as movements in individual states to relax restrictions on the drug, marijuana advocates are growing stronger on every legal front, indicating the inevitability of legalization.

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