Guest Editorial: Tulsi Gabbard and Kamala Harris Can Teach Arizona About Marijuana and Its Evolution

By Recker McDowell —

A few weeks ago, Kamala Harris was the emerging Democratic presidential candidate. She took on frontrunner Joe Biden over his past statements on busing and working with segregationists during his early days in the U.S. Senate.

A few weeks later Harris is back in the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls. The California U.S. Senator got 5 percent in a new CNN poll and 8 percent in a new Economist poll.

So, what happened? What put Harris back in the pack?

The decline in the polls did come after Tulsi Gabbard faulted Harris during the last debate over her prosecutions of marijuana cases. Harris is a former district attorney in San Francisco and was California Attorney General.

The country (including Arizona) has changed its attitudes on marijuana, including medical marijuana and legalization.

There is across the board increased support for medical marijuana as well as legalization. Arizona voters will likely get a chance to legalize marijuana in 2020. Medical marijuana has strong support across the political spectrum as voters see its potential benefits for chronic pain and other conditions.

If Harris is going to compete in the top tier of the Democratic presidential primaries with Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders she will have to bridge her prosecutor’s past with how Democratic voters, especially progressives, view marijuana and criminal justice reforms.

It is also not just a progressive issue, there is widespread support for medical marijuana and legalization among conservatives and libertarians.

There are lessons in Arizona which faces its own crossroads with marijuana. Elected officials, candidates and advocates across the spectrum will have to look at their potential evolutions on marijuana. Society has changed and so have voters.