Things That Matter

Kamala Harris Pledges That, If Elected, She and Joe Biden Would Decriminalize Marijuana Use

On Monday, Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris vowed that a Biden-Harris administration would “decriminalize” the use of marijuana.

“Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will decriminalize the use of marijuana and automatically expunge all marijuana-use convictions, and end incarceration for drug use alone,” Harris said during a Facebook Live virtual round-table.

“We need to deal with the system, and there needs to be significant change in the design of the system,” she continued.

The decriminalization of marijuana would be a boon for cannabis-rights activists who have long said that marijuana’s potential health risks “pale in comparison” to the harm that criminalization has done to communities of color in America.

We’ve known for a while that the U.S.’s drug policies disproportionately affect people of color. While the stats suggest that Americans across all demographics use marijuana at roughly the same rate, Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be arrested and charged for possession.

For example, in New York City in 2017, the NYPD arrested 17,000 people for marijuana-related offenses. 86% of those were Black or Latino.

via Getty Images

Historically, politicians on both the left and the right haven’t done much to fix this disparity. Although both Republicans and Democrats were responsible for the largely ineffective “War On Drugs” policies of the ’90s that left a large number of people of color incarcerated, the Dems have recently changed their tune.

In the ’90s, there was an erroneous belief that marijuana was a “gateway” drug to harder, more destructive drugs, like crack-cocaine. Cracking down on marijuana possession was seen as a preventative tactic to keep people from trying crack.

The decriminalization of marijuana would be a marked change for Biden in particular who has held quite stringent anti-marijuana positions throughout his career.

“The school of thought was that we had to do everything we could to dissuade the use of crack cocaine,” Biden said in 2008 Senate hearing. “And so I am part of the problem that I have been trying to solve since then.”

This falls in line with what Senator Harris’s policy stances have been of late. She recently spear-headed a bill called the MORE Act that, if passed according to Politico, would “remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and erase some cannabis criminal records”.

It’s worth noting that there is a marked distinction between the decriminalization of marijuana vs its legalization.

via Getty Images

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, decriminalization means “no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for the first-time possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal consumption”. In essence, a marijuana-related offense would be treated similarly to a traffic violation.

Legalization, on the other hand, would mean a federal policy that “supports a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers can buy marijuana for personal use from a safe legal source.”

Whether it’s decriminalization or legalization, one thing’s for sure: the data shows that hyper-punitive laws towards cannabis possession has done the American people more harm than good. Especially in communities of color.

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They Supported Different Candidates At The DNC But These Two Delegates Both Cast Votes To Help The Latino Community

Things That Matter

They Supported Different Candidates At The DNC But These Two Delegates Both Cast Votes To Help The Latino Community

Anthony Santiago / Zenaida Huerta

Since Joe Biden clinched the Democratic presidential nomination in April, his team has been hard at work brokering a sort of truce with rival candidate Bernie Sanders, along with his dedicated supporters.

This outreach became ever more apparent at last week’s Democratic National Convention, as Sanders and his closest allies, as well as many of their one-time rivals, say the party is united behind Joe Biden in the face of a common enemy: Donald Trump.

In a live-streamed speech, Bernie said: “As long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates, and, yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat.” He added: “This election is the most important in the modern history of this country. We need Joe Biden as our next president.”

The Biden team has worked hard to forge this bridge between Biden and Sanders supporters, and although Biden has also excluded a number of cherished progressive policies from his party’s platform, the relationship remains intact.

Biden and Sanders supporters want voters to know one important thing: it’s OK to change your mind.

Now, as many Sanders supporters and delegates to the convention come to support Biden, the two sides want to show voters that it’s OK to change your mind and to support the nominee – even if he wasn’t your first (or second or third…) choice.

We sat down with two young Latino delegates who proudly nominated their chosen candidate for President of the United States at this convention. They may not have cast their vote for the same candidate but they both agree that our community needs a voice at the table and that all of us will benefit from actual leadership in the White House.

They started out supporting different candidates but these two delegates agree on the importance of this election.

Meet Anthony Santiago and Zenaida Huerta – two young Latino delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Although they cast their vote for different candidates, they both share similar motivations for making sure their voice (and the voice of their community) was heard.

Anthony is a 19-year-old delegate from Kissimmee, Florida and, having been a Biden supporter from the very beginning, proudly cast his vote for Joe Biden.

Zenaida, from California, is a 21-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter and it wasn’t her first time attending the convention as a delegate – she also cast her vote for Sanders at the 2016 convention at just 17-years-old.

When asked about the importance of voting and getting involved in politics, they both pointed out how consequential this election is. Anthony said, “The single most important thing that any of us can do this year is vote. When we are united, our voice can make a huge, positive difference in our nation. There has never been a more important election in our lifetimes than the 2020 presidential election.”

Zenaida urges our community, especially young Latinos to “realize your power. We are in this fight for the long haul—not just until our friends stop posting about it. When we stay in this fight, we see change.”

Anthony came to the convention as a long term Biden supporter.

Anthony told Mitú that he came to appreciate and admire Joe Biden during the presidency of Barack Obama. He would watch the news with his mom every morning while getting ready for school and he felt that Barack Obama was a leader he could look up to.

He added that during the Democratic primary, he was “watching every debate and taking the time to look into each candidate and Joe Biden’s plan for healthcare was what I gravitated to most.”

Anthony also points out that for him, his support of Biden isn’t just about policy. According to Anthony, ”Biden’s personal story also really stood out to me. It’s filled with hardship and resonates with many Americans. Joe Biden knows what it feels like to feel true loss, and he knows how to push forward. After making it through all of these challenges, Joe Biden is now running for president and will win if we all do our part and vote for him.”

As a longtime Sanders supporter, it was important for Zenaida to cast that vote for his nomination.

To Zenaida, her support for Sanders is simple: “I support Bernie Sanders because I believe that working families deserve lives filled with dignity,” she told Mitú.

Among all demographics, Latinos in California suffer from the highest rates of poverty and Zenaida believes that Sanders’ policies will help uplift the most vulnerable among us. She says, “My grandparents and parents sacrificed so much for me to have a better life—yet, a better life is now out of reach for young Latinos. I support Bernie because he makes a better life within reach, not just for myself, but for my community.”

When asked about the importance of casting her vote for Sanders at the convention, Zenaida told Mitú, “Being part of the convention for the second time means that the progressive movement has been realized. Young people, particularly young Latinos, whose majority stood behind Bernie, were with him in 2016; they are with him in 2020; and they will continue to be an unmoved force in our party hereafter.”

Zenaida and her family have roots in the farm worker community and she sees Sanders as a true ally.

Zenaida remembers as a little girl attending labor marches and rallies with her father, who was a campaign manager for AFL-CIO in Los Angeles. She was moved by the thousands of people, standing together, united to make a difference.

But labor and community organizing runs deep in her family. Her grandfather, Juan Huerta, worked alongside Cesar Chavez as a United Farmworkers organizer. When asked about why he worked so hard for so little in return, Huerta told Zenaida, “It was a lot of work, but it was right.” These words guide Zenaida in her activism today. She told Mitú, “I am involved not just because I am one voice, but because I am one of many. I am following in my grandfather and father’s footsteps because I am continuing their struggle.“

Biden’s support in getting the Affordable Care Act (aka. ObamaCare) passed helped Anthony’s family in untold ways.

Like so many other Americans, healthcare is one of the most important issues our community faces. So many are unable to afford important medications or medical procedures, while others are simply too afraid to visit the doctor for fear of deportation. Therefore, it’s no surprise that healthcare is consistently rated among the most important issues to Latinos.

Anthony’s family has benefited from the ACA, which was signed under the Obama presidency with Joe Biden’s support. Anthony points out just how important this was to his family.

He says, “Joe Biden’s plan for healthcare was what I gravitated to most. My abuela was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer a few years ago, and thanks to the ACA she has been able to get affordable treatment and is doing very well today.”

Anthony and Zenaida are not alone: major parts of the progressive wing are coming together to support Biden’s campaign.

A progressive group that opposed Joe Biden in the Democratic primaries is rolling out a new campaign to urge progressive voters in battleground states to back the presumptive presidential nominee in November.

RootsAction.org, a group run by supporters of Bernie Sanders, launched its #VoteTrumpOut campaign Wednesday and said while it hopes to help push the former Vice President over the edge against President Trump, it will work to hold him accountable should he win the White House. 

“Donald Trump is waging a war on truth, on decency, on our planet, and on working people. For the sake of everything we care about, we have to get him out of the White House in 2020,” the group said on its website. “As progressives and leftists, we are not going to minimize our disagreements with Joe Biden. But we’re also clear-eyed about where things stand: supporting the Democratic nominee in swing states is the only means we have to defeat Trump.”

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AOC Is Going To Be Speaking At The Democratic National Convention

Things That Matter

AOC Is Going To Be Speaking At The Democratic National Convention

Mario Tama / Getty Images

The Democratic National Convention is coming up and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been given one of the prime time speaking slots. AOC represents an electorate within the Democratic Party that is desperate for real change and progressive values.

AOC is going to be speaking at the Democratic National Convention and people are pumped.

The Democratic National Convention is happening from August 17 to 20 and the list of speakers is out. AOC, the outspoken congresswoman, is one of the speakers in a prime time spot. The full line up is a wide-ranging swath of politicians including Republican John Kasich.

Speakers will cover both sides of the aisle.

Monday: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (a Republican who ran against Donald Trump in the 2016 GOP primary) and former first lady Michelle Obama

Tuesday: Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former President Bill Clinton and Jill Biden, the candidate’s spouse.

Wednesday: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former President Barack Obama and the yet-unnamed vice presidential nominee.

Thursday: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Biden family and the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Sen. Harris was recently announced as the vice-presidential nominee. This would mean that someone else would replace her on Thursday night. Rumors are circulating that it could be either Susan Rice or Stacey Abrams.

The DNC is receiving praise for offering up the slate of speakers.

The DNC is a virtual event this year because of Covid-19. If you want to watch the convention from August 17-20, you can watch it here. You can also check out the full schedule here so you know what you want to see.

READ: Joe Biden Calls Kamala Harris A ‘Fearless Fighter’ After Tapping Her To Be His Running Mate

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