At South by Southwest, Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, said when he gets the job, he’s going to make marijuana legal in Texas.

“We’re going to make sure that we no longer lock up people for possession of a substance that is legal in most of the rest of the country, and most of the rest of the free world,” O’Rourke said.

And even though Texans of all races and ethnicities use marijuana at the same rate, black and brown people are arrested and locked up and convicted of drug crimes at a much higher rate, O’Rourke said.

It’s not enough to legalize marijuana, but Texas needs to expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana possession and served time for their crimes so there is some justice for them, O’Rourke said.

Evan Smith, CEO and Co-Founder of Texas Tribune, interviewed O’Rourke at SXSW. He asked him how can he get a Texas Republican Legislative body to pass laws for the legalization of marijuana.

“I’ll let you in on a secret,” O’Rourke said. “Republicans like to get high just as much as Democrats like to get high.”

“That would be a secret, I’ll say that for sure,” Smith said.

This is one of the most broadly popular issues in the state, O’Rourke said.

In other issues, O’Rourke blasted Gov, Greg Abbott for failing to keep the lights on in the energy state of Texas during the February Winter Storm of 2021.

The storm resulted in hundreds of deaths and losses ranging from $195 billion to $295 billion, making it the single costliest natural disaster in the history of Texas. Among the victims, a Vietnam veteran froze to death in his truck, and a young boy froze to death in his bed, O’Rourke said.

Meanwhile, energy companies made more than $11 billion during a five-day period during the storm, O’Rourke said.

Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren is suing O’Rourke for statements O’Rourke made accusing Warren of donating to Gov. Abbott’s campaign in exchange for favoritism. Warren made a $1 million contribution to Gov. Abbott’s re-election campaign. His company Energy Transfer allegedly made $2.4 billion from the Texas disaster.

In response to Smith’s question about how he can defend himself against the defamation lawsuit, O’Rourke said that truth is the greatest defense against defamation and that he is speaking the truth.

Every consumer will be paying an extra $45 every month on every utility bill to the energy companies because of the profits they made during the storm, O’Rourke said.

“We have a very clear case of a governor who stands with high donors and corporations and not the people of the state,” O’Rourke said.

He also said Gov. Abbott is focused on all the wrong issues. He has signed into law one of the most restrictive abortion laws. He has ordered an investigation into how parents care for their transgender children. He has activated 10,000 members of the Texas state guard to go to the border for a year.  

“It’s costing all of us billions of dollars,” O’Rourke said. “They are miserable and morale is suffering. That is not making us safer. That is more chaos and confusion.”

Meanwhile, children in Texas are suffering in foster care and one institution for girls was just shut down in Bastrop after the caretakers were found to be abusing the girls, O’Rourke said. He said that Gov. Abbott had been warned for months about the institution and he did nothing.

Texas is also seeing a spike in gun violence, O’Rourke said. Texas has had four of the worst mass shootings in the history of the country just in the last five years, he said.

“We do have real challenges in the state of Texas,” O’Rourke said. “When I’m governor I’m going to focus on them.”

Another problem in Texas is voter suppression efforts, In the primaries, ballot rejections in large cities were up to 6 to 22 percent, compared to less than 5 percent in previous elections, Smith said.

“This is not a flaw – this is a feature,” O’Rourke said.

Willie Nelson had his ballot request rejected, he said.

It’s targeted specifically in big counties to disenfranchise voters in those areas who primarily vote Democratic, O’Rourke said.

Texas has a history of voter suppression acts and poll taxes, O’Rourke said.

“It’s always the people in power trying to hold on to that power by stopping the people in this state from voting,” O’Rourke said.

He said he hoped the U.S. Department of Justice would intervene.

“I wish we would make voting rights a priority in Texas,” O’Rourke said. “It is easier now to carry a gun on the streets of Texas than it is to vote in our polling places in Texas.”