Fact Check: Kamala Harris Didn’t Send 1,500 to Jail for Pot. It was 2,000

Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris addresses the Presidential Forum at the NAACP's 110th National Convention at Cobo Center on July 24, 2019, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images

CLAIM: Kamala Harris “put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”

VERDICT: MOSTLY FALSE. It was closer to 2,000.

During the second night of the second Democratic Party presidential primary debate on Wednesday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) attacked Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) over her record as a prosecutor in San Francisco and California as a whole.

Harris has been criticized by the left for her record as a prosecutor, and the criticisms go back even longer. The late Jeff Adachi, who taught Harris at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, said that he had been “disappointed” that she had not chosen a more “progressive” path.

Gabbard and former Vice President Joe Biden both went after Harris’s record, with Gabbard appearing to cite research by the Washington Free Beacon in February that while Harris was California Attorney General, “at least 1,560 people were sent to state prisons for marijuana-related offenses.”

That information was timely after Harris admitted in a radio interview that month that she had smoked marijuana, then laughed.

After the debate, the San Francisco Chronicle looked into the claim and found that it was wrong: it was too low.

The Chronicle‘s Joe Garofoli explained:

The [Free Beacon] article cited statistics from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that said “at least 1,560 people were sent to state prisons for marijuana-related offenses between 2011 and 2016” during the time Harris was the state AG. On Thursday, a department spokesman told The Chronicle that 1,974 people were admitted for hashish and marijuana convictions during that period.

The Free Beacon published a tongue-in-cheek correction on Friday: “Free Beacon regrets the error.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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