Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke Proposes Federal Grants for Marijuana Offenders

Presidential candidate and former Texas Congressmember Beto O’Rourke announced today that he supports a program in which the federal government issues “Drug War Justice Grants” for those who were formerly or are currently incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.

The program is part of O’Rourke’s plan to legalize marijuana: It would be funded by the taxes he would place on marijuana sales.

Although O’Rourke certainly isn’t the only candidate to support legalizing marijuana, he is the first to support a grant program for those affected by the failing war on drugs, particularly marijuana.

As noted by Politico, if elected O’Rourke pledges to use clemency power to release people now serving sentences for marijuana possession, and he called for expunging the records of those convicted of possession. He also proposed removing cannabis-related charges as grounds for deporting people or denying them citizenship.

“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. “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 a federal tax on the industry would also fund treatment programs, re-entry services, and programs in communities disproportionately affected by marijuana arrests. Politico notes that he also proposed tying federal criminal justice funding to a requirement that states and local governments waive licensing fees for marijuana-related businesses for low-income people who have been convicted of marijuana offenses. O’Rourke’s campaign said he would seek to regulate marijuana similarly to how alcohol is regulated, including limiting sales to adults and conducting advertising focused on deterring use by children and driving under the influence.

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