At a packed campaign rally held in downtown Austin, Beto O’Rourke thumped off his expected index of campaign promises: strengthening the power grid, wading back the state’s new permitless carry measure, and expanding the accessibility of health care.
However, the El Paso Democrat garnered some of the loudest merriments of the evening when he pledged to legalize cannabis in Texas, something he expressed: “most of us, nonetheless of the party, actually approve of.”
“I’ve been forewarned that this may or may not be a favored thing to speak in Austin, Texas,” O’Rourke expressed to the crowd assembled in Republic Square Park in December. “Though when I am the governor of Texas, we are going to legalize cannabis.”
The aid is nothing foreign for the gubernatorial candidate. O’Rourke has backed legalization efforts throughout his political tenure, ever since his time as an associate of the El Paso city council. O’Rourke also hinted at the policy throughout his fallen campaigns for U.S. Senate and for president.
Though in his early run for governor, O’Rourke, who denied being questioned for this story, has frequently referenced legalizing cannabis on the campaign trail across the Lone Star State. Cannabis advocates hope the increased traction will give momentum to legalization attempts in a state with some of the most drastic penalties and highest arrest rates for cannabis possession in the entire nation
O’Rourke’s advocacy around the matter of cannabis reform dates back at least to his time on the El Paso City Council more than a decade ago when he campaigned for a resolution calling on Congress to include “an open, transparent national discussion on ending the prohibition” of cannabis.
Despite unanimously passing the El Paso city council, Former Mayor John Cook blocked the nonbinding bill. Cook got some assistance from then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who alerted council members the city could forfeit federal funds if they pressed on with their cannabis reform efforts.
O’Rourke went on to contest and defeat Reyes in the 2012 Democratic primary for his congressional spot. During that campaign, Reyes expressed an ad attacking O’Rourke’s position on cannabis legalization.
“Legalizing cannabis is not the answer. Even our children comprehend that” a narrator stated in a video campaign advert that displayed children shaking their heads in disagreement. “Say NO to Drugs. Say NO to Beto.” the ad concluded.
While O’Rourke did not rally on the policy for the duration of that race, cannabis advocates at the time pointed to his victory as a symbol of the shifting attitudes around cannabis legalization in Texas.
O’Rourke’s stance is impacted by his hometown of El Paso, which Beto documents about sizably in his decade-old book “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico” co-authored with El Paso City Council member Sue Byrd.
For nearly two decades years before 2008, there was a standard of 236 murders per year in Ciudad Juárez, the companion city of El Paso, O’Rourke expressed. That figure increased to 316 in 2007 before soaring to 1,623 in 2008. There was a “destructive persuasion,” O’Rourke expressed: the “multibillion-dollar grip between supply and demand,” where “North America engulfs black market drugs” and “Mexico furnishes them.”
The text hints at a correlation between government raids on the black market trade and the number of murders. By regulating, overseeing, and taxing the cannabis market, O’Rourke and Byrd believe the U.S. can save lives. The writers call for limiting sales to adults, providing licenses to help control, limiting smoking to nonpublic areas, and outlawing advertisers from marketing to children.
Expect Stickyleaf to keep you all updated on Beto O’Rourke’s campaign as long as it is for the advancement of cannabis reform.