Ted Cruz’s opponent Beto O’Rourke supports major shift in drug policy and criminal justice system.
August 27, 2018—Texas U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke penned an op-ed for a Texas newspaper which points out the many failings of our criminal justice system. Now in a tight race with incumbent Senator Ted Cruz, O’Rourke–currently the U.S. Representative from Texas’ 16th district in and around El Paso–has been traveling all over Texas campaigning on liberal policies that were once embraced by many voters in the Lone Star State a couple of decades ago. Once considered a safe Republican seat, Cruz and O’Rourke are nearly tied in recent polls.
Part of the O’Rourke platform is to end the failed war on drugs which has lead to the incarceration of minorities at a disproportional rate and filled privately run, for-profit prisons that make more money when they are full of prisoners. He also wants to end the mandatory minimum sentencing which has helped keep the for-profit prisons full of non-violent drug offenders, including people incarcerated for marijuana offenses.
O’Rourke writes in the Houston Chronicle:
“First, we should eliminate private, for-profit prisons from our justice system. Locking someone up is a power that should be reserved for our government, not outsourced to corporations that have the perverse incentive of getting more people behind bars so that there are more profits for their shareholders.
“Second, we need to end the failed war on drugs that has long been a war on people, waged on some people over other people. Who is going to be the last man — more likely than not a black man — to languish behind bars for possessing or using marijuana when it is legal in more than half of the states in this country? We should end the federal prohibition on marijuana and expunge the records of those who were locked away for possessing it, ensuring that they can get work, finish their education, contribute to their full potential and to the greatness of this country.
“Third, we must stop using mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenses — a practice that costs taxpayers dearly and destroys lives in the process by locking up people who could safely re-enter society. And we replace this practice with policies that begin treating addiction like the public health concern it is.”
Ted Cruz has been staunchly against full legalization. Originally he backed federal prohibition and criticized the Obama administrations efforts to relax federal enforcement in states that have legalized the plant. More recently he has relaxed that attitude and become one of the many “states rights” wafflers on the subject, supporting a hodgepodge of legal jurisdictions relating to cannabis.
“I don’t support drug legalization, but I do support the Constitution. I think individual states can choose to adopt it,” Cruz told the Texas Tribune in 2015. “So if Texas had it on the ballot, I’d vote against it, but I respect the authority of states to follow different policies.”
Change may be on the way to Texas, a state that has ranked poorly on lists of states with medical marijuana laws. In fact, American’s for Safe Access gave Texas a grade of “F” for their cannabis laws. Even though Texas has passed some medical cannabis laws, they applied arbitrary limits on THC making the law ineffective and discriminatory against patients that need THC for treating their ailment. Texas currently ranks number one in the nation for marijuana related arrests.