Former Housing and Urban Improvement Secretary Julián Castro proposed a criminal justice strategy pledging that if he is elected president he will legalize marijuana, expunge prior cannabis convictions and invest in communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition.

The “First Opportunity Program,” released on Wednesday, is created to take a preventative method to folks getting into the criminal justice method even though also giving sources for these who’ve currently been incarcerated. The 2020 Democratic candidate pointed to the war on drugs as an instance of a policy that “became a siege against folks who are poor, the most vulnerable people, and the most marginalized communities.”

“Today far more than two million folks are incarcerated, and far more than half a million people are locked up for non-violent drug offenses, disproportionately young African American and Latino guys,” he mentioned. “The human fees are staggering: households torn apart, billions wasted in taxpayer dollars, and the lost possible of a generation.”

Castro mentioned punitive federal drug laws, like the 1994 crime bill that an additional candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, played a top function in enacting, have “enabled the more than-policing of communities of colour, producing a method of mass incarceration and a much less just nation.”

To right the dilemma, addiction must be treated like a public well being challenge, Castro mentioned. Treating the dilemma by means of the criminal justice method has “shattered communities, strengthened criminal groups, and locked up these who did not deserve it.”

When not explicitly endorsing the decriminalization of drug possession as some other candidates have, Castro is calling to “end the War on Drugs” and “address the opioid crisis and other challenges of drug addiction as mostly public well being problems, not seek to additional harm the people and communities suffering addiction.”

“As president, I will bring our misguided War on Drugs to an finish.”

That includes legalizing cannabis, expunging the records of these with non-violent marijuana convictions on their record and putting a federal tax on sales, even though utilizing that income to aid these most impacted by prohibition.

“We will regulate the marketplace and spot a tax on all recreational sales, investing billions in income generated in the communities disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs,” the strategy says.

In order to market equity in the legal market, Castro mentioned he would also produce grant applications “that assistance minority-owned companies and prioritize folks straight impacted by the war on drugs in getting marijuana company licenses.”

The wide-ranging strategy also consists of proposals to finish drug sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine, as properly as launch a federal overview of all sentencing recommendations to quit other racial disparities.

Castro mentioned he’d launch initiatives aimed at stopping misuse of what he named “dangerous” drugs and treating addiction. Additional, he pledged that pharmaceutical firms whose actions contributed to the country’s opioid dilemma would be held accountable “for their function in the suffering of millions.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-IVT), a rival presidential candidate, rolled out his personal marijuana-focused strategy on Thursday that pledges to deschedule the substances inside the initial 100 days of his administration, ban tobacco firms from participating in the market and encourage nonprofit company models.

And former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), an additional contender, also released a strategy on Thursday that emphasizes the need to have to treat addiction in the public well being sector. His proposals include things like decriminalizing possession of all drugs and investing in harm reduction applications such as needle exchanges and supervised consumption websites.

Like various other presidential candidates, Castro mentioned he would use presidential clemency powers to straight away impact transform in the criminal justice method. He pledged to produce an independent commission to overview the thousands of instances of non-violent drug offenders serving time in federal prison, with the panel creating suggestions to him about clemency possibilities.

“This is the single greatest step we can take to straight away cut down the unacceptable size of our prison population and set an instance for the rest of the nation that the era of mass incarceration need to finish,” he mentioned.

“There are an estimated 17,000-plus folks serving unjust and excessive sentences in federal prisons appropriate now, usually for non-violent drug offenses.”

He is also pledging to “pass legislation requiring states that obtain positive aspects to lift the lifetime ban on Supplemental Nutrition Help System (SNAP) and Short-term Help for Needy Households (TANF) positive aspects for folks with felony drug convictions.”

Notably, Castro recognized that reform in the federal prison method is not sufficient to finish mass incarceration. That is why he’s proposing “a top rated-to-bottom audit of each federal dollar to locate the approaches in which the federal government subsidizes cruel and dangerous practices in state and regional prison systems, and assistance efforts to redirect sources towards restorative justice.”

Other non-drug particular reform proposals in his strategy include things like abolishing money bail and mandatory minimum sentences, ending the death penalty and solitary confinement and restoring voting rights for people who had been incarcerated.

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Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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