With her defeat of Republican Ron Gold, California Attorney General Kamala Harris believes that the decision to legalize recreational marijuana is an issue that voters should be trusted to make. As the number of states legalizing cannabis throughout the nation doubled from two in 2012 (Colorado, Washington) to four and a metropolitan city (Oregon, Alaska, Washington, D.C.) this year, supporters in California have been encouraged to bring the matter to the 2016 voting ballot.
“We’re watching it happen right before our eyes in Colorado and Washington. I don’t think it’s going to take too long to figure this out,” Harris said. “I think there’s a certain inevitability about it.”
Although Attorney General Harris doesn’t harbor any moral opposition to Mary Jane, she carries concerns from the perspective of administered regulations and any subsequent harm to the public that legalization may cause if its use isn’t regulated.
“It would be easier for me to say, ‘Let’s legalize it, let’s move on,’ and everybody would be happy. I believe that would be irresponsible of me as the top cop… There are real issues for law enforcement, [such as] how you will measure someone being under the influence in terms of impairment to drive,” she said.
Historically, Harris has been a driving force in the California government’s opposition to legalizing marijuana. In 2010, she showed disdain for Prop. 19 in the upcoming months before the election and since then she has only shown support for the sale of medical cannabis.
However, in December of 2013 the Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of the Attorney General’s office released a summarized report detailing its findings related to legalizing recreational marijuana. It concluded that the measure would reduce the annual costs to state and local governments related to enforcing certain cannabis-related offenses, criminal cases in the court system and incarcerating and supervising offenders. In addition, there would be “additional tax revenues in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually” due to legalization.
Harris also supported the 2014 Farm Bill that allows for the growth of hemp for research purposes.
Harris’ comments on legalization join the other officials who have come forward to show some level of support for the cause. Soon she may be in the position to make bigger changes in legislation. Her name has been mentioned for several high-profile positions and she was briefly considered to supplant resigning U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Harris was also named a front-runner to replace Democratic California Senator Barbara Boxer.
What do you think? Will California legalize recreational marijuana in 2016? What methods could be used to ensure the measures success?