Sen. Kamala Harris said Wednesday that if elected president she would clear the way for people convicted of dealing drugs to get jobs in the lucrative legal marijuana industry.
Ms. Harris, a former California attorney general, said it was “ironic” that former drug dealers with felony convictions are sometimes barred from marijuana jobs.
“They were ahead of the curve,” she said with a laugh at a candidate forum in Houston hosted by She The People, a national network of advocacy groups led by women of color.
She advocated for a background check system to determine if a convicted drug dealer deserves to be “first in line” for cannabis jobs.
“Their felony conviction should not be the barrier to them having employment in an industry that they were a part of before it was an industry,” she said.
Ms. Harris is among 19 hopefuls seeking the Democratic presidential nomination and is vying among the top-tier candidates.
People convicted of dealing marijuana are prohibited from working in growing and selling of marijuana in many of the states such as Colorado and California that have legalized recreational use of cannabis.
“Apparently a lot of the people who historically were arrested for marijuana sales were young men, young men of color,” Ms. Harris said. “Isn’t that the irony of it all? This is one of the fastest-growing money-making industries in our country and the very young men who were trying to make money doing the same thing got criminalized and now have been branded felons for life [and] are excluded from the economic opportunities that are now available because of this new industry.”
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