Beto O’Rourke said Thursday he needs the federal government to supply “Drug War Justice Grants” to individuals previously incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana crimes.
The projected grants, a part of O’Rourke’s strategy to legalize and regulate marijuana, could be financed with a national tax on the business.
The proposal comes as O’Rourke, an early winner of marijuana legalization, tries to recover his footing at the Democratic presidential primary. Campaigning in California, he met with marijuana advocates in Los Angeles on Tuesday and planned to hold a similar meeting in Oakland on Thursday.
If chosen, O’Rourke vowed to use the clemency power to release individuals currently serving sentences for marijuana possession, and he predicted for expunging the records of the convicted of ownership.
He proposed removing cannabis-related fees as grounds for deporting individuals or denying them citizenship.
Over a dozen candidates in the Democratic Party’s sprawling main field support legalizing marijuana, representing an important change in party politics in the past couple of decades.
However, the problem has long been a cause of O’Rourke’s. As an El Paso councilman, he pushed 2009 to get a resolution supporting the federal government to tackle “open, honest, national dialogue on ending the prohibition of narcotics,” asserting that legalizing marijuana could discontinue drug trafficking in the U.S.-Mexico border. He also co-wrote a publication, “Dealing Death and Medicines: The Big Business of Dope at the U.S. and Mexico, ” at 2011.
In his suggestion Thursday, O’Rourke’s effort stated suggested “justice” grants could be financed entirely with a tax upon the marijuana business and goes to former federal and state offenders for a period according to time served.
O’Rourke’s effort said a national tax on the sector would also fund treatment plans, re-entry programs and services in communities affected by marijuana arrests. In addition, he proposed linking national criminal justice funding into some condition which states and local authorities to waive certification fees to get marijuana-related companies for low-income men and women who’ve been 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,” O’Rourke said 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.”
O’Rourke’s campaign said he’d want to regulate marijuana similarly to the way alcohol is controlled, such as restricting sales to adults and running advertisements focused on deterring usage by kids and driving under the influence.
O’Rourke suggested limiting smoking of marijuana to “private residences and nonpublic spaces” and maintaining marijuana-related companies besides “schools, daycares, churches and other incompatible land uses.”