Former Congressman Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) is calling on federal lawmakers to legalize marijuana—a move that some experts see as a prelude to announcing his 2020 presidential bid.
O'Rourke has never been shy about his support for drug policy reform, but he's never voiced that quite so strongly as he did in an email sent out to supporters on Monday. The email sees O'Rourke calling for a number of changes to the way criminal justice is handled in the US, including ending the racist War on Drugs that he considers "part of the new Jim Crow."
"[W]e need to end the failed War on Drugs that has long been a war on people, waged on some people over other people," O'Rourke wrote in the email. "We should end the federal prohibition on marijuana and expunge the records of those who were locked away for possessing it, ensuring that they can get work, finish their education, contribute to the greatness of this country."
The email also called for the end of the for-profit prison system, preventing employers from asking prospective workers about previous convictions on job applications and strengthening rehab services among other things.
"Giving low-level offenders a second chance no matter the color of their skin or the economic status they hold can create opportunity for all of us," O'Rourke wrote. "It will help build a future that is more just, more fair, and more prosperous for every single person in this state and this country."
O'Rourke rose to political prominence last year while campaigning to represent Texas in the US Senate. He quickly stood out for adopting a highly-progressive platform that isn't typically seen in the Lone Star State. While O'Rourke's Senate bid was ultimately unsuccessful, it seems likely the rising Democratic star will capitalize on the attention that has been given to him in recent months and enter the race to sit in the Oval Office. If he does make his bid official, we should expect cannabis reform to be a central part of his platform.