Pro-Cannabis Beto O’Rourke Faces Off With Ted Cruz Over Drug Policy

Beto O’Rourke is challenging Ted Cruz in the Senate race. With radically different policies, who will come out on top?
Pro-Cannabis Beto O'Rourke Faces Off With Ted Cruz Over Drug Policy
Beto O’Rourke for Congress Committee/ Flickr

Drug policy is emerging as a campaign issue in the Texas Senate race, according to local media reports.  On Tuesday, Republican incumbent Ted Cruz attacked Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke for his pro-cannabis stance. O’Rourke currently represents Texas’ 16th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

While on the campaign trail, Cruz talked with reporters about a story in conservative media published earlier in the day. That story said that as a member of the El Paso City Council, O’Rourke had called for legalizing all narcotics.

In 2009, O’Rourke had introduced an addition to a resolution on the war on drugs passed by the city council. His amendment actually merely called for “honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.”

And at the time, he was clear he wasn’t calling for the legalization of all drugs.

“I’m not saying that we need to do that – to end the prohibition,” O’Rourke said in a 2009 council meeting. “I think we need to have a serious discussion about doing that, and that may, in the end, be the right course of action.”

But that didn’t stop Cruz from running with the story. He suggested to reporters at a San Antonio campaign stop that O’Rourke wanted to legalize all drugs. Interestingly, he left that possibility open for cannabis.

“Reasonable minds, perhaps, can differ on whether marijuana should be illegal, but what Congressman O’Rourke introduced was a resolution for the City Council to take up legalizing all narcotics, legalizing everything, legalizing heroin, legalizing deadly opioids,” Cruz said.

“As this country is facing a crisis — an opioid crisis … and in light of that growing tragedy, Congressman O’Rourke’s radical proposal to legalize all narcotics is a suggestion that might be very popular up at Berkeley. It might be popular in far-left circles, but it doesn’t reflect the values of Texans. Texans don’t want to see heroin and deadly opioids legalized and our kids able to just walk into the corner store and buy them.”

Cruz also said that the federal government should let the states take the lead on cannabis policy.

“I’ve always said that should be a question for the states. I think different states can resolve it differently. So in Texas — if we were voting on it in Texas — I would vote against legalizing it. But I think it’s the prerogative of Texans to make that decision, and I think another state like Colorado can make a very different decision.”

O’Rourke Meets With Voters Over Doughnuts

Although O’Rourke has not made cannabis legalization an issue in the campaign, he often hears about the subject. Voters asked his views at a campaign stop at a Sonora, Texas doughnut shop last weekend. O’Rourke stated his position clearly.

“I’m on a bill that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana once and for all,” he said.

O’Rourke also noted that there are far more pressing priorities for limited government resources. He said that we are “spending on that war on drugs right now when we could put it into the classroom, into teacher pay, into treating an opioid epidemic, a methamphetamine epidemic that I’m seeing through lots of West Texas right now.”

O’Rourke and Cruz are currently running in a statistical dead heat for the Senate seat. A Quinnipiac University poll released two weeks ago shows Cruz leading 47-44 percent, a margin of three points. But the margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3.6 points.

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