Candidates running for the US Senate in the biggest (red) state in the union, Texas, squared off in a testy debate on Friday Sept. 21, 2018.
Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Republican Senator Ted Cruz both got hot under the collar when it came to cannabis legalization and drug policy reform.
“I want to end the war on drugs and specifically want to end the prohibition on marijuana,” Congressman O’Rourke said in response to a barb from Sen. Cruz in the hour-long debate live streamed on NBC News.
O’Rourke supports legalization of cannabis and a total overhaul of the criminal justice system and in 2009 had called for legalization of all drugs to stem the US-Mexico border issues.
Cruz has not forgotten. He called it a “profound mistake to legalize all narcotics and I think it would hurt the children of this country.”
O’Rourke countered: “To be clear, I don’t want to legalize heroin and cocaine and fentanyl.”
“There’s a consistent pattern when it comes to drug use, that in almost every single instance,” said Cruz, “Congressman O’Rourke supports more of it.”
O’Rourke described the medical benefits of legalizing cannabis, referencing a senior citizen with fibromyalgia and the over policing and incarceration of African-Americans. “…because more likely than not, that’s who will be arrested for possession of marijuana, to rot behind bars, instead of enjoying his freedom and the opportunity to contribute to the greatness of this country.”
O’Rourke overtly criticized police brutality and made it clear that racial injustice was among his biggest priorities.
Referring to the recent shooting of Botham Jean, killed in his own Dallas home by an off duty police officer on Sept. 6, O’ Rourke said: “With the tragic shooting death, you have another unarmed black man killed in this country by law enforcement. No member of law enforcement wants that to happen. No member of this community wants that to happen. We got to do something better than what we’ve been doing so far. African Americans represent 13 percent of the population in this country. They represent one-third of those who are shot by law enforcement.”
Cruz’s response: “I believe everyone right’s should be protected regardless of your race or ethnicity. I’ve been to too many police funerals. I was here in Dallas when five police officers were gunned down because of irresponsible and hateful rhetoric.”