Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke got some of the loudest cheers of the night when he promised to legalize marijuana in Texas, something he said “most of us, regardless of party, actually agree on.”
“I’ve been warned that this may or may not be a popular thing to say in Austin, Texas,” O’Rourke said to a crowd in Republic Square Park in December. “But when I am governor, we are going to legalize marijuana.”
Supporting Cannabis and the people who choose it is nothing new for the gubernatorial candidate. O’Rourke has championed legalization efforts throughout his political career, reports The Texas Tribune. Beto’s Cannabis advocacy goes all the way back to his time as a member of the El Paso City Council. He also heartily advocated legalization throughout his campaigns for U.S. Senate and for president.
Beto Emphasizes Cannabis On The Campaign Trail
In his early run for Texas governor, O’Rourke has repeatedly mentioned legalizing marijuana on the campaign trail. Advocates hope the increased visibility will give momentum to legalization efforts in the Lone Star State.
That would certainly be a positive thing, because Texas has some of the harshest and most regressive marijuana penalties in the nation. It also has some of the highest arrest rates for marijuana possession.
That’s due in no small part to conservative GOP nimrod Greg Abbott’s failed and feeble attempts at leadership as Texas’ current governor.
13 Years Of Public Marijuana Advocacy
In 2009, as an El Paso City Councilman, Beto pushed a resolution calling on Congress to have “an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition” of weed.
Despite unanimously passing the city council, then-Mayor John Cook vetoed the nonbinding measure. Cook got backing from then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes.
Reyes darkly warned council members the city could lose federal funds if they continued with their efforts at, well, democracy.
O’Rourke went on to challenge and defeat Reyes in the 2012 Democratic primary for his congressional seat. During that race, Reyes released an ad attacking O’Rourke’s position on marijuana legalization.
“Legalizing drugs is not the answer. Even our children understand that,” a narrator said in a video campaign scare ad that showed children shaking their heads. “Say NO to Drugs. Say NO to Beto.”
O’Rourke didn’t campaign on marijuana policy throughout that race. But activists pointed to his victory as a sign of the changing attitudes around Cannabis legalization.
Adults Only; No Advertising To Minors
Beto’s viewpoints are influenced by his El Paso origins. He writes extensively about his home town in his 2011 book “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico,” co-written with fellow City Council member Susie Byrd.
The authors call for marijuana sales to adults only, and providing licenses and regulation. They also propose limiting smoking to nonpublic spaces and prohibiting advertisers from targeting minors.
Beto Fought For Marijuana Law Reform In Congress
Once in Congress, O’Rourke continued his efforts to roll back federal marijuana regulations.
In 2017, he introduced a bill repealing a rule that prevented federal funds from going to states that don’t enforce a law revoking or suspending drivers’ licenses over weed convictions. He supported several attempts to protect states which had legalized Cannabis from federal enforcement.
Beto tried to compel courts to seal records for nonviolent offenses involving marijuana. He co-sponsored a bill allowing students convicted of pot possession to maintain eligibility for federal aid. He also supported various measures to increase research into and expand the availability of medical cannabis, especially for veterans.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Hates Weed, And You
If O’Rourke becomes governor, his plans to legalize marijuana would face hurdles in conservative Texas Legislature. Looming large among those is weed-hater Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the Texas Senate.
After the House in April 2019 gave preliminary approval to a bill that would have reduced criminal penalties for Texans possessing small amounts of marijuana, Patrick declared the measure dead in the Senate.
A Patrick spokesperson said the lieutenant governor is “strongly opposed to weakening any laws against marijuana [and] remains wary of the various medicinal use proposals that could become a vehicle for expanding access to this drug.”
Abbott Lacks The Cojones To Even Take A Stand
Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t even have the stones to answer questions on his position regarding marijuana legalization.
Legalization advocates hope O’Rourke’s candidacy can swing opinions among state leaders on relaxing Cannabis restrictions.
Texas voters overwhelmingly support legalization, according to all recent polls.