If you’re a Democratic presidential nominee and you haven’t unveiled a marijuana legalization plan, are you even trying? (We’re looking at you, Joe Biden.) Former congressman Beto O’Rourke was the latest contender to announce an extensive marijuana legalization platform, which included “Drug War Justice Grants” for those previously locked up due to marijuana offenses.
O’Rourke’s plan also revealed that, if elected, he would use presidential clemency power to commute the sentences of those currently serving time in jail form marijuana offenses. While he’s long been an advocate for marijuana legalization, this is the first time O’Rourke has mentioned clemency or possible reparations for the War on Drugs.
“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 statement.
Photo by skodonnell/Getty Images
The “Drug War Justice Grants” stands out among O’Rourke’s boldest platform points in his campaign thus far. These grants would be paid for through taxes levied on federally legal cannabis and distributed monthly to former nonviolent marijuana convicts. Money would be paid out on a monthly basis, determined by time served, among other factors.
O’Rourke took a step further with his marijuana legalization proposal, laying out a groundwork for regulation and sale of products. Using a structure comparable to purchasing alcohol, adults with proper ID can buy marijuana and smoke within “private residences and nonpublic spaces.” In addition, an advertisement campaign dissuading youth usage and driving under the influence will be part of the plan.
Ending the federal prohibition of marijuana has long been a focus of Beto O’Rourke’s, dating back to his time as an El Paso City Councilman in the 2000s. In 2011, O’Rourke and a colleague co-wrote a book that argued for federal legalization of cannabis.