Beto O’Rourke: Ex-Marijuana Offenders Deserve “Drug War Justice Grants”

By Bryan Le 09/23/19

The Democratic presidential candidate believes we need to give back to those who were incarcerated under defunct marijuana laws.

Image: 
Presidential Candidate, Beto O`Rourke, speaks at a forum in Sioux City, Iowa on July 19, 2019.
Richard Koele | Dreamstime.com

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke says that the federal government owes Drug War Justice Grants to those who have been jailed for non-violent marijuana offenses to help them get their lives back.

The proposed policy is part of O’Rourke’s larger platform that includes the legalization of marijuana. He promises that if he were elected President of the United States, he would grant clemency to all persons in the criminal justice system for possession of marijuana as well as expunge their criminal records related to those charges. Going one step further, he also wants to cross marijuana charges off the list of reasons someone could be deported or denied citizenship.

While it might be easy to assume that O’Rourke is simply trying to gain a foothold in the Democratic presidential primaries by jumping on the legalization bandwagon—nearly all the Democratic challengers have advocated legalizing marijuana—the drug war has actually been an issue he’s long held dear.

Back in 2009 as an El Paso city council member, he pushed for a resolution to advocate that the federal government undertake “open, honest, national dialogue on ending the prohibition of narcotics,” believing that marijuana legalization could help alleviate the stresses from drug trafficking at the border. In 2011, he co-wrote a book called Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico.

The proposed Drug War Justice Grant would be funded entirely by taxes taken on legal marijuana, according to O'Rourke's campaign. The grants would be doled out based on how much time each individual convicted person has spent in prison.

Going a step further, the candidate would also spend the taxes on treatment and re-entry programs as well as social programs for communities that have been disproportionately affected by marijuana arrests. Additionally, he proposes using federal criminal justice funds to allow state and local governments to waive licensing fees for marijuana businesses for low-income people who were formerly convicted of marijuana crimes.

“We need to not only end the prohibition on marijuana, but also repair the damage done to the communities of color disproportionately locked up in our criminal justice system or locked out of opportunity because of the War on Drugs,” said O’Rourke in a prepared statement.

“These inequalities have compounded for decades, as predominantly white communities have been given the vast majority of lucrative business opportunities, while communities of color still face over-policing and criminalization. It’s our responsibility to begin to remedy the injustices of the past and help the people and communities most impacted by this misguided war.”

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter