Friday, January 24, 2014

The times they are a-changing

I could start off with a rant about why taxpayers in Texas are being asked to pay for a security detail for Gov. Rick Perry while he rubs shoulders with the rich and powerful and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But I'm in a good mood so I won't sweat the Guv hanging out at the uber-wealthy's version of Woodstock.

And, speaking of Woodstock, Gov. Goodhair sprung an interesting surprise on reporters when asked about his views on the legalization of marijuana. While emphasizing his opposition to legalizing the weed, Gov. Perry did express his support for decriminalizing grass.

The Fair-Haired One has embraced the use of specialty drug courts as opposed to regular courts. Now I have made my opposition to drug courts well known and I'll repeat it here -- courts are for resolving legal issues, not for doling out medical treatment. Addiction is a public health issue, not a criminal issue; and until we treat it as such, we will continue to tread water.

Aside from his support of drug courts, for once I'm on board with Gov. Perry. There are far too many folks arrested and dragged into court for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Even worse are the far-ranging consequences for a conviction -- public housing residents can be evicted and college students will be deemed ineligible for federally-backed student loans.

Currently possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor carrying a maximum punishment of six months in jail. If Gov. Perry is serious about decriminalizing marijuana then we need to knock possession of less than 2 ounces to a Class C misdemeanor (the equivalent of a traffic ticket) which is a fine-only offense that doesn't appear on one's criminal record. Then we need to knock down each level of offense one step. In fact, we should seriously consider doing that on every drug possession offense right now.

Gov. Perry understands the economic cost of carrying out a draconian drug war. He sees that county jails are filling up with non-violent minor drug offenders. Now it's time to see if the rest of Perry's Republican posse is willing to fall in line and amend the drug laws in the next legislative session.

Now contrast Gov. Perry's position with that of Devon Anderson, the unelected Harris County District Attorney whose blowhard response to President Obama's comments about marijuana sounds a lot like the nonsense in Reefer Madness.
"Marijuana is creating deadly situations right here in Harris County. I welcome the President to come to Houston to review the same capital murder cases I did just last week that were the result of marijuana drug deals. Maybe then he will see that the most effective way to keep our law-abiding citizens safe is to obey all laws that our legislators put on the books at our state capitol. 
“I am acutely aware of the high price society pays for the misuse of alcohol. This is not a debate about whether alcohol or marijuana is more dangerous. The President’s comments notwithstanding, marijuana is illegal under the Texas penal code, and we vigorously prosecute drug possession and alcohol-related offenses in Harris County.”
But what else should we expect from Ms. Anderson? The budget for her office depends on the number of cases being filed. She has no time to worry about the consequences of prosecuting folks for possession of minor amounts of marijuana while she's out trying to convince folks to vote for her this fall.

After all, it's much easier to demagogue than make well-reasoned arguments.

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