NIBLEY – In her first solo appearance in a ZOOM spotlight, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Karina Brown of Nibley disputed the wisdom of a campaign promise made by her party’s vice presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
“I personally don’t support the effort to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level,” Brown said in response to a question from Garna Mejia of KSL-TV.
Brown’s statement came just a week after Harris promised that the Biden-Harris administration, if elected, would “decriminalize the use of marijuana and automatically expunge all marijuana use convictions and incarceration for drug use alone.”
Harris made that pledge publicly during her debate with Vice President Mike Pence hosted by the Utah Debate Commission in Salt Lake City on Oct. 7.
Brown distanced herself from that Democratic talking point during a candidate forum on Monday sponsored by the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
Brown had been scheduled to face off during that event with the GOP’s candidate for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Deidre Henderson of Spanish Fork. When Henderson abruptly backed out of that engagement, Brown unexpectedly found herself alone fielding questions during the online forum via ZOOM technology.
“I think that Utah has taken a good step by approving medical cannabis via Voter Proposition 2 in 2018,” Brown explained. “That is a good option for people who are suffering from physical ailments or diseases. I have several friends who are in that situation and were grateful that Prop 2 passed to give them an alternative to opioid medications.”
While she approves of the use of medical cannabis under a doctor’s supervision, Brown made clear that she does not favor the legalization of recreational use of marijuana.
But Harris’ current views on the issue of marijuana use are far less nuanced.
“This is no time for half-steppin’ …” she said while discussing criminal justice reform during a virtual town hall meeting on Sept. 15. “We need to deal with the system, and there needs to be significant change in the design of the system so that we can support working people, so that we can fight for the dignity of people, so that we can make sure that all people have equal access to opportunity and to justice.”
Harris has a previous record of strictly enforcing drug laws as a prosecutor and attorney general in California, but now specifically cites the decriminalization of marijuana use as a needed federal policy reform.
Despite Harris’ statements, many marijuana advocates consider promises to decriminalize the drug to be only a half-step toward needed reforms. While possession of marijuana would no longer be an offense under most common decriminalization statutes, sale of the drug would still be illegal. Advocates of the cannabis industry want full legalization of the recreational use of marijuana.
But the Reuters news service reported that U.S.-listed shares of major cannabis producers surged in early October after Harris repeated her decriminalization pledge during the debate with Pence on Oct. 7.
Although she has personal doubts about the benefits of decriminalizing marijuana, Brown nevertheless believes that federal laws should be amended to reduce financial conflicts with states that have legalized medical and/or recreational use of cannabis.
While many U.S. states have legalized marijuana use, banks and other traditional financial institutions have so far largely refused to work with the industry as cannabis is still a classified substance at the federal level.
Such regulatory issues have also inclined traditional investors to consider the cannabis industry a risky venture.