Brown disagrees with Democratic pledge to decriminalize marijuana

During a candidate forum Monday, Nibley's own candidate for lieutenant governor Karina Brown disagreed with the wisdom of a campaign pledge by Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris to decriminalize marijuana use.

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.

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  • Dave Gerard October 20, 2020 at 4:53 pm Reply

    Well she might be a democrat but she knows what state she is in.

  • John Thomas October 21, 2020 at 5:45 am Reply

    No. A majority of Americans in every state, including Texas support re-legalizing marijuana. Any politician who doesn’t is cutting their own throat.

    Canada has completely ended the fraudulently enacted marijuana prohibition, and Mexico will do so by the end of this year. We already have 11 states that have legalized adult use marijuana, with more on the way in a couple of weeks.

    It’s clear we are ending the fraudulent, counter-productive marijuana prohibition, just as we ended the misguided alcohol prohibition.

  • Cheech 2024 October 21, 2020 at 4:30 pm Reply

    Once again backwardness reigns. There is a reason that we are known as utards and Brown is a perfect example. The majority of the populace in this state want to legalize marijuana. While I do wish that Utah would remain a red state. The reality is that we are quickly becoming a blue state. Decriminalizing marijuana would only save the state some money, while completely legalizing it would generate the state some much needed revenue. Instead, of using common sense our legislators want to punish the poor by raising taxes of food. There is a reason that Utah had to petition so hard to become part of the U.S.. This backwardness shows with its stance on marijauna.

  • Nate Kizerian October 22, 2020 at 5:58 am Reply

    I’m Nathan Kizerian. I’m the 2nd place runner up for Lt Governor in The Democratic Party. Our campaign fully supported decriminalization of cannabis and ending the War On Drugs. I guess Utah wasn’t ready for the Zachary Moses and Nathan Kizerian Adminstration. I still support Brown because she’s a champion for Healthcare. I just don’t see eye to eye with her on drug policy.

    • Barnabus October 26, 2020 at 4:50 pm Reply


      You don’t have long before Utah is Blue. I am a social liberal and a fiscal conservative and the republican party is leaving us behind for the wingnuts. If the democrats in UTAH do not get to woke for their own good. The state will belong to you before you know it. Why don’t guys focus on getting Sen. Lee out.

  • Michael November 15, 2020 at 1:30 pm Reply

    It won’t be long before it’s legal in Utah for recreational use I would say five years or less recreational marijuana will be legal.

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