In the Texas Democratic primary election for State Representative, one of the largest points of contention between the candidates was the legalization of marijuana. In a small victory for marijuana activists, pro-marijuana legalization candidate Beto O’Rourke beat out eight-term incumbent Representative Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic Party for Texas’ 16th congressional district. The 16th District is Texas’ closest to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, a city known for being overrun by drug cartels and extreme violence.
O’Rourke won outright with 51.33% of the vote, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office on Wednesday. The 16th district is known to be more liberal than conservative, so it is anticipated that he will win the general election in November.
In 2009, O’Rourke gained national coverage for his efforts to put forth a resolution calling for a national dialogue about drug policy reform as well as a re-examination of the War on Drugs. He has been a vocal marijuana supporter throughout his time in office as a city council member in El Paso. O’Rourke strongly believes that an end to marijuana prohibition will help to curb violence among Mexican drug cartels. He also has spoken multiple times at Drug Policy Alliance conferences.
His defeated opponent, Reyes, has a very differing view on marijuana. In the past, he threatened that the city of El Paso would lose federal funding if it continued to push the legalization conversation that O’Rourke tried to initiate. In an ad against his opponent, Reyes stated that, “Legalizing drugs is not the answer. Even our children know that.”
O’Rourke’s victory is an important one, as vocal marijuana supporters Ron Paul and Barney Frank will both be retiring from the House of Representatives at the end of their respective terms. He will have the opportunity to champion marijuana legalization and its benefits to his fellow Representatives. However, some supporters are worried that O’Rourke will not pursue the issue of legalization should he take office, as he has not been as vocal about marijuana legalization in the final weeks of his campaign.