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Beto O`Rourke on Drugs

Democratic candidate for President; Texas Senator nominee

 


Decriminalize opioids; legalize marijuana

I remember a veteran telling me that he bought heroin off the street because he was originally prescribed an opioid at the VA. Imagine that veteran instead had been prescribed marijuana, because we made that legal in America, ensured the VA could prescribe it, and made sure that he was not prescribed something to which he would become addicted. Drug addiction is not a problem for the criminal justice system. They're an opportunity for our public health system.
Source: October Democratic CNN/NYTimes Primary debate , Oct 15, 2019

Opioid manufacturers should be held to account

Despite what Purdue Pharma has done, their connection to the opioid crisis and overdose deaths that we're seeing throughout this country, they've been able to act with complete impunity and pay no consequences, not a single night in jail. Unless there's accountability and justice, this crisis will continue. We will hold them to account. We will make sure that they pay a price, and we will help those who've been victims of this malfeasance in this country get them treatment and long-term care.
Source: June Democratic Primary debate (first night in Miami) , Jun 26, 2019

Decriminalize marijuana; expunge criminal records

He is in favor of decriminalization and expunging criminal records of cannabis-related offenses.
Source: Axios.com "What you need to know about 2020" , Apr 29, 2019

1998 drunk driving: arresting officers say he tried to flee

The former police officer who arrested Beto O'Rourke for driving drunk in 1998, along with the sergeant who signed the incident report, both say they believe now what they reported at the time: that O'Rourke tried to leave the scene of the wreck he caused.

O'Rourke admits he was intoxicated and says there is no justification for his actions, but he has denied that he tried to flee. "Beto's DWI is something he has long publicly and openly addressed over the last 20 years at town halls, on the debate stage, during interviews and in Op-Eds, calling it a serious mistake for which there is no excuse," said an O'Rourke spokesman. "This has been widely and repeatedly reported on."

[The original police report asserted], "The defendant/driver then attempted to leave the scene. The [police officer] then turned on his over head lights to warn oncoming traffic & to try to get the defendant to stop. When I made contact with the driver, defendant was unable to be understood due to slurred speech."

Source: Texas Tribune on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Apr 24, 2019

Arrested for drunk driving at age 25; license suspended

Beto was 25 when he was arrested for drunk driving, an incident that would become a flash point in his campaign against Ted Cruz, and will likely become one again in a presidential race.

The police report describes O'Rourke driving at high speed and sideswiping a truck going in the same direction, then jumping the median into the oncoming lane at about two in the morning. According to a police witness, he tried to drive away from the scene of the accident. O'Rourke maintains that this isn't true.

O'Rourke was taking his date, named Michelle, back to her home in Las Cruces when the accident happened. He failed a sobriety test and was handcuffed. In his telling, he was pathetic but nonetheless chivalrous: When police left his friend in a gas-station parking lot, a handcuffed O'Rourke asked them to take cash out of his jeans so she could get home. His father posted bail. His license was suspended, and he had to take a bus to his job working at his mom's furniture store.

Source: Joe Hagan in Vanity Fair on 2020 Democratic primary , Mar 13, 2019

Dealing Drugs and Death: 2011 call for legalization

In 2011, O'Rourke teamed up with a fellow council member, Susie Byrd, to publish a political tract titled "Dealing Drugs and Death," arguing for drug legalization to curtail the cartel wars that had de-stabilized the border. The tract was nobody's idea of a great political move--drug legalization was still on the fringes of mainstream politics in 2011--but it set the stage for a run for Congress against the eight-term incumbent, Silvestre Reyes, a former border-patrol guard who supported the War on Drugs and made his name advocating for border fencing. The odds against beating an incumbent were long, but O'Rourke and his new campaign manager, David Wysong, a local health-care executive who had never run a congressional campaign, tabulated the voter turnout they would need to win--which for O'Rourke translated to numbers of doors he needed to knock on. "How many doors? How many people behind each door?" Wysong recalls.
Source: Joe Hagan in Vanity Fair on 2020 Democratic primary , Mar 13, 2019

Treat drug abuse as public health issue, not criminal

We lose 70,000 of our fellow Americans to drug overdose deaths. We can treat this as a criminal justice issue or show real compassion and treat it as a public health issue. I want to have smart drug control policy. I want to acknowledge that we have the largest prison population per capita on the face of the planet, many serving time for possession of a substance that is perfectly legal or decriminalized or medicinalized in more than half the states in the union.

I don't want to legalize narcotics. I do think we should end the prohibition on marijuana and effectively control and regulate its sale and make sure those who need it for medicinal purposes are able to obtain it through a prescription from their doctor.

Source: CNN Town Hall: 2020 presidential hopefuls , Oct 18, 2018

Long-time advocate for marijuana legalization

Q: Legalize or decriminalize marijuana?

Ted Cruz (R): Personally opposed to legalization, but states should choose for themselves.

Beto O'Rourke (D): Yes. Long-time legalization advocate. Sponsored bill to end federal prohibition.

Source: 2018 CampusElect.org Issue Guide on Texas Senate race , Oct 9, 2018

End prohibition on marijuana, expunge records of possessors

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
Source: O'Rourke OpEd in Houston Chronicle: 2020 Democratic primary , Aug 27, 2018

2008 crackdown cost 1,623 lives in Juarez

Violent death isn't a new phenomenon in Juarez. But 2008 was different. For the 15 years before 2008, the average number of murders per year in Juarez was 236. Then 1,623 people were murdered in 2008.

2008 was different in another way. People weren't just murdered: they were brutalized. Tortured. Maimed. Dismembered. One at a time. 1,623 times in all.

Not only were young and middle-aged men dying--the presumed profile of the cartel workforce--so were women, pregnant mothers, the elderly and young children.

This spike in violence was linked to two wars that had just been announced. The first was President Felipe Calderon's war against the cartels. The second was Chapo Guzman's war against the Juarez cartel for control of the valuable transit route leading from Juarez into the U.S. drug market, valued between $63 and $81 billion. These two narratives made it easy to dismiss the awful bloodshed as nothing more than settled scores amongst cartels.

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 13-4 , Nov 29, 2011

2008: National debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics

In 2008, Juarez was caught in a hemispheric vise between supply and demand. North America consumes illegal drugs, Mexico supplies them. When there is interference between the supply and demand, people start dying.

Thinking about what city council could do to help. I asked whether we should more aggressively address the issues related to demand and prohibition. I listened to the answers, and then offered an amendment, to encourage "an honest, open, national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics."

It was an artless, and even inaccurate amendment to a larger resolution (I only learned later that marijuana is not a narcotic, even though it was precisely that drug that I felt people would be most open to debating), but it got the point across.

The resolution passed unanimously. Later in the day, Mayor John Cook surprised us by vetoing the resolution, he cited a concern that we'd be "laughed out of Austin and D.C." when we went begging for our allotment of state and federal funds.

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 15-6 , Nov 29, 2011

Low price of pot means low crime rate

Once marijuana [is smuggled across the Mexican border] to El Paso, it is valued at $240 a pound. The [raw drugs] are typically transported to stash houses where they are consolidated, repackaged, and shipped to markets nationwide. That's where the real profits are. Street values of drugs in El Paso are much lower than in larger markets where most of the product transited through Juarez is headed.

The El Paso region's role in the drug trade is mostly limited to warehouse and distribution to other larger, more profitable American markets. This is similar to El Paso's role in the maquilla sector, where goods are manufactured in Juarez then shipped to El Paso for distribution to U.S. markets. The relatively low value of the retail drug trade in El Paso might be one reason that the murder rate here is so low compared to other, more lucrative destination markets. The average murder rate for [U.S. destination] cities was 16 murders per 100,000 in 2010; in El Paso it was 0.8 per 100,000.

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 36-7 , Nov 29, 2011

Mexico estimates US pot market at $3B; US says $14B

The Mexican government estimates that the cartels take of the marijuana market in the U.S. is between $750 million to $3 billion. For cocaine, they estimate between $1.65 billion to $4.8 billion. Heroin brings in between $300 to $700 million and methamphetamine between $160 million to $480 million.

The United States government is much more bullish about the revenues made Mexican drug cartels, estimating that Mexican cartels bring home between $15 billion to $30 billion annually from illicit drug sales. At one point, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimated that more than 60 percent of the cartels' revenue--$8.6 billion out of $13.8 billion in 2006--came from U.S. marijuana sales. They retracted those estimates in 2010, but continue to assert that marijuana is the top revenue generator for Mexican drug cartels.

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 42 , Nov 29, 2011

War on Drugs expanded from $371M in 1971 to $48,700M today

On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs. "Public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive." He asked for an additional $371 million from Congress to "conquer drug abuse in America." His funding request included new dollars for the treatment, prevention, education, eradication and stepped up law enforcement of existing drug trafficking laws. Nixon ended his declaration detailing the federal government's new role in ending drug abuse by stating, "The final issue is not whether or not we will conquer drug abuse, but how soon."

Our federal drug-war budget has ballooned from Nixon's $371 million request to $15.6 billion dollars within 40 years. State and local governments spend an additional $33.1 billion annually towards drug enforcement.

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 63 , Nov 29, 2011

Supply-side enforcement should raise drug prices, but fails

The hope behind supply side law enforcement efforts (eradication and seizures) is that if law enforcement seizes enough product, it will limit supplies of that product in American markets. Limited supplies will then force drug dealers to increase their price or decrease the purity or do both.

The reality is just the opposite. The U.S. really ratcheted up the war against cocaine in the 1980s. These efforts were largely successful in shutting down the Florida peninsula as a trade route for cocaine into the United States.

According to the logic behind law enforcement supply-side strategies, cocaine should now be incredibly expensive. there have been increases in the price of cocaine from 2007 to 2011 that law enforcement in the U.S. and Mexico point to as a sign of their winning the battle against Mexican cartels, but the prices are nowhere close to the all-time high in the early 80s. Not only is cocaine much less expensive since its heyday in the 1980s, it is also purer. ˙˙

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 66-7 , Nov 29, 2011

Enforcement efforts make illegal drugs profitable & deadly

In addition to the drug war having no appreciable impact on curbing drug access and drug abuse, the market for illegal drugs in the United States has created a sizeable underground economy that has killed over 45,000 people in Mexico as part of the price of doing business. And the horrors aren't confined to Mexico; daily shootings in American inner cities are largely attributable to drug turf disputes. U.S. efforts to disrupt the flows of illegal products into the United States have created do using current drug war strategies is to wipe out the huge profits to be made in the market for illegal drugs. In fact, it is these very efforts by law enforcement that have made selling illegal drugs so profitable.
Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 68-9 , Nov 29, 2011

Regulating drug market would bring in billions of revenue

The cost to prosecute marijuana prohibition is not cheap. Nationally, is close to $9 billion annually. On the other side of the ledger, states could expect to collect almost $3 billion in new taxes and the federal government nearly $6 billion if marijuana was taxed at rates comparable to alcohol and tobacco.

As governments at all levels desperately search for services to cut and revenues to raise, a rational policy of regulation and taxation of marijuana sales could provide much needed help. Think of the number of local police officers, federal agents, judges, court personnel, prison guards and parole officers involved in attempting to uphold this prohibition against marijuana. Regulating and controlling the market would reduce the police power of the government for what is widely recognized as a trifling crime, allow it to focus resources on greater need, and generate additional tax revenue.

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 92 , Nov 29, 2011

Legalization closes "gateway" effect of marijuana

A popular theory is that marijuana is a "gateway drug," meaning that the use of this drug will lead to the use of other, harder drugs. To buy marijuana in the U.S., you must purchase it from an illegal drug dealer. There is a good chance that the same dealer is also selling other, harder drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. It is in his interests to get you to buy these other offerings.

If you buy dope in a coffee shop in Amsterdam,˙where marijuana is decriminalized, you can only add a coffee or a hot chocolate to your order. In the U.S., your choices often include an array of toxic recreational drugs. It is no wonder that in the Netherlands the lifetime prevalence of cocaine use is 2 percent while in the U.S. it is 16 percent. The Dutch have effectively closed the gateway from marijuana to other drugs.

Regulate marijuana and you remove other more pernicious options from the 42 percent of Americans who try marijuana in their lifetime.

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 94 , Nov 29, 2011

2009: US arrested 758,000 adult citizens for pot possession

In 2009, the United States arrested 758,593 of its own adult citizens for merely possessing marijuana. That a negotiation of goods for money--between two consenting adults--can result in the arrest of both parties, is stunning.

These arrestees are now permanently scarred and marked in the systems of justice, employment, and social standing. Their chance of becoming productive members of society is now diminished. And the alternatives of crime and illicit activity become more obvious.

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 89-90 , Nov 29, 2011

Exclude industrial hemp from definition of marijuana.

O`Rourke co-sponsored Industrial Hemp Farming Act

Sponsor's Remarks:
Rep. PAUL: Nine States allow industrial hemp production or research in accord with State laws. However, Federal law is standing in the way of farmers in these States growing what may be a very profitable crop. Because of current Federal law, all hemp included in products sold in the US must be imported instead of being grown by American farmers. Since 1970, the federal Controlled Substances Act's inclusion of industrial hemp in the "schedule one" definition of marijuana has prohibited American farmers from growing industrial hemp despite the fact that industrial hemp has such a low content of THC (the psychoactive chemical in the related marijuana plant) that nobody can be psychologically affected by consuming hemp.

The US is the only industrialized nation that prohibits industrial hemp cultivation. Industrial hemp is a crop that was grown legally throughout the US for most of our Nation's history. In fact, during World War II, the Federal Government actively encouraged American farmers to grow industrial hemp to help the war effort. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government has stood in the way of American farmers competing in the global industrial hemp market. Indeed, the founders of our Nation, some of whom grew hemp, would surely find that federal restrictions on farmers growing a safe and profitable crop on their own land are inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee of a limited Government.

Source: HR1831/S3501/HR525(2013) 12-S3501 on Aug 2, 2012

Exempt industrial hemp from marijuana laws.

O`Rourke signed Industrial Hemp Farming Act

Congressional Summary:Amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of "marihuana." Defines "industrial hemp" to mean the plant Cannabis sativa and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3%.

Argument in favor (Sen. Ron Wyden):

Members of Congress hear a lot about how dumb regulations are hurting economic growth and job creation. The current ban on growing industrial hemp is hurting job creation in rural America and increasing our trade deficit. This bill will end this ridiculous regulation. Right now, the US is importing over $10 million in hemp products--a crop that US farmers could be profitably growing right here at home, if not for government rules prohibiting it. Now, even though hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, there are major differences between them. The Chihuahua and St. Bernard come from the same species, too, but no one is going to confuse them.

Argument in opposition (Drug Enforcement Agency):

Argument in opposition (DrugWatch.org 10/30/2013):

Source: S.359/H.R.525 14_H0525 on Feb 14, 2013

Immunity for banks offering services to marijuana businesses.

O`Rourke co-sponsored immunity for banks offering services to marijuana businesses

Congressional Summary:This bill provides a safe harbor for depository institutions providing financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business insofar as it prohibits a federal banking regulator from:

  1. terminating or limiting the deposit or share insurance of a depository institution solely because it provides financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business; or
  2. prohibiting, penalizing, or otherwise discouraging a depository institution from offering such services.
Immunity from federal criminal prosecution or investigation is granted, subject to certain conditions, to a depository institution that provides financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business in a state or one of its political subdivisions that allows the cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, transportation, display, dispensing, distribution, or purchase of marijuana.

Argument in Favor: [Cato Institute, March 31, 2016]: Marijuana is now legal under the laws of [several] states, but not under federal law. And this creates huge headaches for marijuana businesses:

Source: H.R.2076 & S.1726 16-HR2076 on Apr 28, 2015

Other candidates on Drugs: Beto O`Rourke on other issues:
2020 Presidential Democratic Primary Candidates:
Sen.Michael Bennet (D-CO)
V.P.Joe Biden (D-DE)
Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NYC)
Gov.Steve Bullock (D-MT)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN)
Sen.Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Secy.Julian Castro (D-TX)
Rep.John Delaney (D-MD)
Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Sen.Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Mayor Wayne Messam (D-FL)
Gov.Deval Patrick (D-MA)
Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
CEO Tom Steyer (D-CA)
Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Marianne Williamson (D-CA)
CEO Andrew Yang (D-NY)

2020 GOP and Independent Candidates:
Rep.Justin Amash (Libertarian-MI)
CEO Don Blankenship (C-WV)
Howie Hawkins (Green-NY)
Gov.Larry Hogan (R-MD)
Gov.John Kasich (R-OH)
V.P.Mike Pence (R-IN)
Gov.Mark Sanford (R-SC)
CEO Howard Schultz (I-WA)
Pres.Donald Trump (R-NY)
Gov.Jesse Ventura (I-MN)
V.C.Arvin Vohra (Libertarian-MD)
Rep.Joe Walsh (R-IL)
Gov.Bill Weld (L-NY,R-MA)
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External Links about Beto O`Rourke:
Wikipedia
Ballotpedia

2020 Withdrawn Democratic Candidates:
State Rep.Stacey Abrams (D-GA)
Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NYC)
Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen.Mike Gravel (D-AK)
Sen.Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Gov.John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
Gov.Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Rep.Seth Moulton (D-MA)
Rep.Beto O`Rourke (D-TX)
Rep.Tim Ryan (D-CA)
Adm.Joe Sestak (D-PA)
Rep.Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
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Page last updated: Dec 15, 2019