Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke wants the federal government to provide “Drug War Justice Grants” to people formerly incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses, reports Politico. The proposed grants, part of O’Rourke’s plan to legalize and regulate marijuana, would be funded by a federal tax on the industry. The proposal was issued Thursday as O’Rourke, an early champion of marijuana legalization, seeks to regain his footing in the Democratic presidential campaign. He met with marijuana advocates in Los Angeles on Tuesday and planned to hold a similar meeting in Oakland on Thursday. If elected, O’Rourke pledged to release people now serving sentences for marijuana possession. He called for expunging the records of those convicted of possession.
More than a dozen candidates in the Democratic Party’s sprawling primary field support legalizing marijuana, reflecting a significant shift in party politics in recent years. The issue has long been a cause of O’Rourke. As an El Paso councilman, he pressed in 2009 for a resolution encouraging the federal government to undertake an “open, honest, national dialogue on ending the prohibition of narcotics,” arguing that legalizing marijuana could stop drug trafficking at the U.S.-Mexico border. He co-wrote a book, “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico,” in 2011. In his proposal Thursday, O’Rourke’s campaign said “justice” grants would be funded entirely by a tax on the marijuana industry and would go to former state and federal inmates for a period based on time served. A federal tax on the industry also would fund treatment programs, re-entry services and programs in communities disproportionately affected by marijuana arrests.