Campaign fact check: Here’s how Kamala Harris really prosecuted marijuana cases

SAN FRANCISCO — Kamala Harris’ opponents and critics have picked apart her prosecution of marijuana crimes during her presidential run, knocking her for over-aggressive jailing of pot users and lambasting her as a hypocrite for saying she now supports legalizing the drug.

But Harris’ history of prosecuting marijuana cases as San Francisco district attorney is more nuanced than those debate-stage confrontations indicate, according to new data obtained by the Bay Area News Group and interviews with more than a dozen former prosecutors, defense attorneys, criminal justice experts and activists who’ve been following her career.

Harris oversaw more than 1,900 marijuana convictions in San Francisco, previously unreported records from the DA’s office show. Her prosecutors appear to have convicted people on marijuana charges at a higher rate than under her predecessor, based on data about marijuana arrests in the city.

But former lawyers in Harris’ office and defense attorneys who worked on drug cases say most defendants arrested for low-level pot possession were never locked up. And only a few dozen people were sent to state prison for marijuana convictions under Harris’ tenure.

“There is no way anyone could say that she was draconian in her pursuit of marijuana cases,” said Niki Solis, a high-ranking attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender’s office during Harris’ time as DA.

Still, advocates wonder why it took so long for the California senator to come out in support of marijuana legalization. She actively fought a ballot measure for recreational pot in 2010, co-authoring an opposition argument in the voter guide, and stayed on the sidelines when a second ballot initiative passed in 2016.

Harris publicly came out for legalizing marijuana only in May 2018, after she was widely considered a likely presidential contender. Since then, it’s become a

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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