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Democratic Presidential Hopeful O'Rourke Talks Pot Legalization In Oakland

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke continued his campaign visit to the Bay Area Thursday, talking about his plan to legalize marijuana at an Oakland cannabis dispensary.

O'Rourke participated in a roundtable discussion focused on legalizing pot on a federal level Thursday morning.

A plan to legalize marijuana nationally has been a focus of O'Rourke's entire political career. On Thursday, he framed the issue as a matter of racial injustice.

"We know that Americans across race and different backgrounds and ethnicities use marijuana and have used illegal drugs at roughly the same rate," said O'Rourke. "But only some Americans are more likely than other Americans to be arrested for it, to serve time for it."

O'Rourke met with pot business leaders at the Blunts and Moore dispensary in Oakland. The owner was arrested for selling marijuana a decade ago. He later won a cannabis business license under Oakland's equity program.

"This is important for people of his stature to come and hear from us what's going on," said Blunts and Moore owner Alphonso Blunt.

O'Rourke's plan would expunge pot possession records and help businesses use banks. It would also impose a new tax with part of the funds going to support reentry to society for those imprisoned for pot possession.

"The criminal code in this country has forever – for as long as we've been a country – been used to keep some people down, by law," explained O'Rourke.

Wednesday night, O'Rourke visited San Quentin State Prison and spoke about his two prior arrests -- one for drunk driving, another a misdemeanor burglary charge, which was dropped. He said those events didn't define him in part because of his race.

This was O'Rourke's fourth trip to California as a presidential candidate. He is headed to Denver next.

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