|Texas Gov. Rick Perry.|
Things we did not expect to happen yesterday: Pigs to begin flying, ten inches of snow in Jamaica and the Governor of Texas saying that he favors decriminalization of certain amounts of cannabis in his state. One of those things actually did happen though, and no we aren’t packing our snowboards for a flight aboard Wilbur to Kingston tomorrow.
In a move that pretty much came as a surprise to everyone including his staff, Texas Gov. Rick Perry yesterday said he wants to start his state down the road to decriminalization to “keep people from going to prison.” Even more shocking, he made the announcement on the national stage at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
“The point is that after 40 years of the war on drugs, I can’t change what happened in the past. What I can do as the governor of the second largest state in the nation is to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization and keeps people from going to prison and destroying their lives, and that’s what we’ve done over the last decade. So I think there’s some innovation that goes on in the states that can translate not just to Oklahoma or California or New York, but to Switzerland, to France, to other countries that have this drug issue facing them, that there are some alternatives without going that big full step and decriminalizing and sending a message to people that it’s OK.” Perry said, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Perry said that the state has already begun implementing drug courts that defer sentences for the possession of small amounts of drugs for treatment programs. Back home on the ranch at the governor’s office in Austin, Perry’s spokeswoman Lucy Nashed immediately spun Perry’s words and denied there was any hope for legalization or even outright decriminalization in Texas any time soon, however.
“This is not a new position. He is not in favor of legalization or decriminalization. There’s still a penalty with the drug courts,” according to Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed. “Some people have said decriminalize, I think that’s a step too far.”
On a panel with former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Columbian President Juan Santos, Perry said he didn’t agree with legalizing all drugs but said that Colorado and Washington were well within their rights to legalize adult use and sales.
“States should be allowed to make those decisions,” U.S. News and World Report quoted the governor as saying. Though, he added after: “[Texas] certainly never would jump out in front of the parade.”
While he’s gaining praise back home for his words, Perry was also grilled over whether or not he truly was walking his talk. Univision reporter Enrique Acevedo pointed out that Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Perry replied that he hasn’t been in office forever, implying that it wasn’t all his doing.
“Well, 13 years is a pretty long time,” the reporter fired back, according to the Statesman.
And those arrests are more often to blacks than whites. Depending on where you are in the state, black people are are anywhere from two to 42 times more likely to be arrested and charged for marijuana possession in Texas than white people despite making up only 12 percent of the population.
Currently, possession of two ounces or less in Texas can get you up to 180 days in jail. Between two and four ounces, and you’re looking at up to a year in jail. Above that, it’s felony charges with sentences ranging from a mandatory 180 days to 99 years in jail for more than 2,000 pounds. Hash possession is a felony and less than a gram can get you up to two years in jail. Four grams can get you ten years in jail. Make or deliver more than 400 grams of hash, and you’re looking at ten to life.