Vice President Kamala Harris Declares Views on Cannabis

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The Vice President hosted a roundtable in the White House to discuss cannabis policy in the country.

In a March 15th, 2024, roundtable at the White House, Vice President Kamala Harris discussed cannabis policy and its impacts in the United States (1,2). Also included in the discussion were rapper Fat Joe, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, White House Director of Public Engagement Steve Benjamin, plus several people who had received pardons for cannabis convictions (1,2). Cannabis policy has also been mentioned this month by President Joe Biden.


Part of the roundtable was then held in private, though Vice President Harris made a few public comments (2). “Nobody should have to go to jail for simple marijuana possession, and what we need to do is recognize that far too many people have been sent to jail for simple marijuana possession,” stated Vice President Harris (1). “And the impact is such that, in particular, Black Americans and Latinos are four times more likely—four times more likely—to be arrested for marijuana possession. I believe that the promise of America includes equal justice under the law, and for too many, our criminal justice system has failed to live up to that core principle. And I say that with full knowledge of how this system has worked including my experience as a prosecutor,” (1).

Two weeks ago, President Joe Biden addressed cannabis in his State of the Union speech, mentioning the federal pardons he has granted and the reexamination of cannabis classification at the federal level (3). Action toward this, he explained, has involved “…directing my Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana, and expunging thousands of convictions for mere possession, because no one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana!” (4).

In 2022 Biden had requested Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review the status of cannabis as a Schedule I substance (5). The HHS completed their review in 2023 and recently released an unredacted version of their recommendation to classify cannabis as a Schedule III substance, passing the final decision over to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Justice (6,7). Vice President Harris noted this development as well (2). “Marijuana is considered as dangerous as heroin and more dangerous than fentanyl, which is absurd,” she stated in the roundtable (2). “Not to mention patently unfair. So I’m sure DEA is working as quickly as possible and will continue to do so and we look forward to the product of their work,” (2).

Additionally, Biden issued an executive order in 2022 pardoning certain cannabis convictions and encouraging governors to issue pardons for cannabis possession in their states (8). That year, Governor Beshear invited people in Kentucky with cannabis convictions to apply for a pardon (2). Earlier this month, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey declared her intent to pardon cannabis possession convictions in the state (8). If approved by the Governor’s Council, that pardon could affect tens of thousands in Massachusetts (8).


  1. Kelly, S. No one should go to jail for “smoking weed,” VP Harris says at White House (accessed Mar 19, 2024).
  2. Superville, D. Vice President Harris and rapper Fat Joe team up for discussion on easing marijuana penalties (accessed Mar 19, 2024).
  3. McEvoy, E. President Biden Discusses Cannabis in State of the Union Address (accessed Mar 19, 2024).
  4. Remarks of President Joe Biden—State of the Union Address As Prepared for Delivery,be%20jailed%20for%20using%20or (accessed Mar 19, 2024).
  5. Keith, T. Flanked by Fat Joe, Harris urges DEA to 'get to it' on its marijuana review (accessed Mar 19, 2024).
  6. Colli, M. HHS Supports FDA's Call: Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis for Medical Purposes (accessed Mar 19, 2024).
  7. Fertig, N. Vice president criticizes federal cannabis restrictions during White House weed event (accessed Mar 19, 2024).
  8. McEvoy, E. Massachusetts Governor Healey Declares Intent to Pardon Cannabis Convictions (accessed Mar 19, 2024).