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Kamala Harris introduces legislation to decriminalize marijuana at federal level

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Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has introduced a federal bill that would decriminalize marijuana, highlighting her continued evolution away from her opposition to decriminalization earlier in her political career.

Harris’ proposed Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, which has been co-sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., would federally decriminalize the drug; tax revenue generated by its commercial use, including creating three trust funds; make it illegal for public benefits to be denied due to marijuana use or possession; and either re-sentence people with prior marijuana-based convictions or expunge their records entirely, according to USA Today.

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The three trusts in question are the Community Reinvestment Grant, which would help people with job training and receiving legal aid; the Equitable Licensing Grant, which would reduce barriers to employment and licensing in marijuana-based industries; and the Cannabis Opportunity Grant, which would help small businesses that are in marijuana-based industries.

While Harris’ marijuana bill is consistent with the positions taken by a number of other Democratic candidates on the issue — the consensus view among the field is that marijuana laws need to be reformed, although the candidates often differ on the extent to which that needs to happen — the proposed law is notable, because Harris used to hold a different view on marijuana policy reform.

The most notable proponent of marijuana legalization has been Sen. Cory Booker, who in 2017 introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana throughout the country. When it was reintroduced this year, it was co-sponsored by other Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Harris.

In 2010, Harris opposed legalizing marijuana, but by 2015 she altered her position. In a recent book she wrote, “We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it, and we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of the millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.”

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Earlier this year, she also told the popular syndicated radio show “The Breakfast Club” that “I think that it gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy in the world.” She has also admitted to smoking pot in her past, raising questions about why she would initially have supported harsh sentences for offenders.

Last month, Salon spoke with John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor who presided over that state when it became the first one to legalize recreational marijuana. Hickenlooper is also competing for the Democratic nomination against Harris.

“We took that very seriously. A lot of my staff had real serious doubts. I had serious doubts. We worried about a spike in teenage consumption. We were worried about people driving while high — an increase in that population,” Hickenlooper told Salon. “But you know, now we are seven years down the road, we haven’t seen a spike in teenage consumption. We actually haven’t seen a spike in any demographic except senior citizens — and that hasn’t been huge. It’s significant — it’s over 10 percent . . . That’s based on surveys of over 20,000 people that we do every year — public health surveys, so it’s pretty good data. And we haven’t seen — we don’t think there are increases of people driving while high.”

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2020 Election

Inside the secret GOP plan to keep power in 2020 — and beyond

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In 2020, we need to pay attention to state elections as well as elections for president and Congress. State elections could decide whether the Republican Party further corrupts American democracy.

As demographics change — and America becomes more diverse and more liberal — the GOP has responded by implementing policies that will take away power from the American people. Rather than changing with the times, they’ve got another plan: minority rule – by them.

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2020 Election

The 2020 candidates need to go after Trump on his supposed strength

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Among many outcomes and observations following last week’s ABC News/Univision presidential debate, there were only two candidates who were willing to attack Donald Trump and the trolls who surround him: Sen. Kamala Harris and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke. That’s not to say the others didn’t mention President Trump at all. It's just that Harris and O’Rourke stood out in terms of their unflinching and aggressive attacks against Trump (Harris) and the Republican Party’s destructive fealty to the gun lobby (O’Rourke).

There’s a noticeable pee-shyness among the Democrats, too often quivering like Shaggy and Scooby over being seen as too anti-Trump or too anti-gun in the face of the elusive white-male diner crowd, despite the reality that Trump’s approvals are stuck in the 40 percent range, give or take. Likewise, support for a new assault weapons ban and an expansion of federal background checks is practically universal. A recent Fox News poll showed 67 percent support for an assault weapons ban and 90 percent support for expanded background checks. Oddly, those numbers indicate that Harris and O’Rourke weren’t really going out on any limbs here, except when contrasted with the baffling timidity of the other Democrats.

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2020 Election

Democratic White House hopeful Elizabeth Warren calls Trump ‘corruption in the flesh’

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Facing thousands of cheering supporters in the nation's largest city, Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren on Monday decried President Donald Trump as "corruption in the flesh".

Warren outlined her plans to root out corruption in the White House, Congress and courts.

"Corruption has put our planet at risk. Corruption has broken our economy. And corruption is breaking our democracy," said Warren, a Massachusetts senator who has emerged as a leading presidential contender.

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