At SXSW, Beto O’Rourke, Democratic candidate for Texas governor, says he will legalize marijuana in Texas

At South by Southwest, Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for governor of Texas, said that when he gets the job, he will legalize marijuana in Texas.

“We are going to make sure that we no longer lock people up for possession of a legal substance in most of the rest of the country and most of the rest of the free world,” O’Rourke said.

And even though Texans of all races and ethnicities use marijuana at the same rate, blacks and browns are being arrested, locked up, and convicted of drug-related crimes at a much higher rate, O’Rourke said.

It’s not enough to legalize marijuana, but Texas must expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana possession and served time for their crimes so that there is justice for them, O’ said. Rourke.

Evan Smith, CEO and co-founder of Texas Tribune, interviewed O’Rourke at SXSW. He asked her how to get a Republican legislature in Texas to pass laws for the legalization of marijuana.

“I’m going to let you in on a secret,” O’Rourke said. “Republicans like to get high as much as Democrats like to get high.”

“It would be a secret, I’ll tell for sure,” Smith said.

It’s one of the most popular problems in the state, O’Rourke said.

In other issues, O’Rourke criticized Governor Greg Abbott for not keeping the lights on in the energy state of Texas during the February 2021 winter storm.

The storm claimed hundreds of lives and losses ranging from $195 billion to $295 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in Texas history. A Vietnam veteran froze to death in his truck and a young boy froze to death in his bed, O’Rourke said.

Meanwhile, energy companies earned more than $11 billion during a five-day period during the storm, O’Rourke said.

Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren is suing O’Rourke over statements O’Rourke made accusing Warren of donating to Governor Abbott’s campaign in exchange for patronage. Warren made a $1 million contribution to Governor Abbott’s re-election campaign. His company Energy Transfer reportedly earned $2.4 billion from the Texas disaster.

In response to Smith’s question on how he can defend himself against the libel suit, O’Rourke said the truth is the best defense against libel and that he is telling the truth.

Each consumer will pay $45 more each month on every utility bill to energy companies because of profits they made during the storm, O’Rourke said.

“We have a very clear case of a governor standing with big donors and corporations and not the people of the state,” O’Rourke said.

He also said Governor Abbott was focusing on all the wrong issues. He enacted one of the most restrictive abortion laws. He ordered an investigation into how parents care for their transgender children. He activated 10,000 members of the Texas State Guard to go to the border for a year.

“It’s costing all of us billions of dollars,” O’Rourke said. “They are miserable and morale suffers. It doesn’t make us any safer. It’s more chaos and confusion.

Meanwhile, children in Texas are suffering in foster care and an institution for girls has just been closed in Bastrop after guards were discovered abusing the girls, O’Rourke said. He said Governor Abbott had been warned for months about the institution and had done nothing.

Texas is also experiencing a spike in gun violence, O’Rourke said. Texas has seen four of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history in the past five years, he said.

“We have real challenges in the state of Texas,” O’Rourke said. “When I’m governor, I’m going to focus on them.”

Another issue in Texas is voter suppression efforts. In primaries, rejections of ballots in major cities reached 6-22%, compared to less than 5% in previous elections, Smith said.

“It’s not a flaw – it’s a feature,” O’Rourke said.

Willie Nelson had his request to vote rejected, he said.

It’s specifically targeted in large counties to disenfranchise voters in areas that predominantly vote Democratic, O’Rourke said.

Texas has a history of acts of voter suppression and poll taxes, O’Rourke said.

“It’s always the people in power who try to retain that power by preventing the people of this state from voting,” O’Rourke said.

He said he hoped the US Department of Justice would intervene.

“I would like us to make voting rights a priority in Texas,” O’Rourke said. “It is now easier to carry a gun on the streets of Texas than to vote in our polling places in Texas.”

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