By Maureen Meehan
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke said that if elected governor of Texas, he would pursue legalizing marijuana and that he anticipates the Republican majority in the Legislature would get on board.
“I’ll let you in on a secret: Republicans like to get high just as much as Democrats,” O’Rourke said, speaking during a South by Southwest panel in Austin on Saturday.
“When I’m governor, we’re going to legalize marijuana in the state of Texas,” he said. “(It is) a substance that is legal in most of the rest of the country, most of the rest of the free world.”
While some Republican-led states have legalized recreational marijuana, Texas is not among them.
According to the Austin-American Statesman, O’Rourke’s comments may work as an applause line, but they may also “undersell the difficulty of winning over the legislature’s most conservative members” and the Lone Star state has some serious conservatives. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, for example, has repeatedly threatened to block marijuana reform and he sets the agenda for the Texas Senate.
O’Rourke has long championed efforts to decriminalize and legalize marijuana, including during his tenure on the El Paso City Council. In 2011, he co-authored a book, “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico,” which argued that ending the federal prohibition on marijuana would reduce drug-related violence.
While Texas lawmakers did approve a slight expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program during the previous session, the rules remain among the most restrictive in the nation.
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Earlier this year, advocacy group Americans for Safe Access gave Texas a failing grade for its program, saying it was neither accessible nor practical.
Nevertheless, O’Rourke suggested that Texas may not be immune to the sweeping tide of cannabis legalization.
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O’Rourke is facing an uphill battle in his quest for governor though as he challenges the two-term Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, whose campaign boasts a massive war-chest and has promised a “knock-out, drag-out fight” against O’Rourke.
This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.