California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a leading candidate to succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer, said she would push to downgrade marijuana’s classification as a federal controlled substance.
Harris, a Democrat, told the editorial board of the Bay Area Reporter that marijuana should not have the same federal classification as heroin, ecstasy and LSD and other narcotics with no accepted medical use. Harris instead believes marijuana belongs with drugs like cocaine, oxycodone and methadone.
“As a U.S. senator, an area of focus for me would be to remove marijuana from Schedule I and put it in Schedule II,” Harris told the board.
A rescheduling could allow states to operate medicinal marijuana programs free from federal interference, and spur a wave of currently blocked federal research.
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Harris joins a bipartisan list of U.S. senators, including Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York in advocating for further decriminalization of marijuana. President Obama has talked about the shifting attitudes over reclassifying pot, citing the growing costs of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders.
Harris has not come out for a specific proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, but said she is generally supportive of the idea, which she suggested is inevitable given the current climate. Her Democratic opponent, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Orange, has said she’s open to a state “pilot program” that legalizes and taxes marijuana for adults 21 and over.
A poll last month by the Associated Press and University of Chicago found that 61 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal in the U.S. compared with 39 percent who do not.
Californians will likely have a chance to vote on a recreational legalization measure in November, after rejecting the last attempt in 2010.