STORIES

Texas Newspaper Endorses Decriminalization

By David Jenison on January 12, 2017

A few years back, the Texas State Legislature passed a bill saying law enforcement could not force search a woman’s vagina without a warrant. The need for such a bill came after a rash of vaginal and anal cavity searches in which police officers were looking for cannabis, and yes, many of these searches took place on the side of the road and in gas station parking lots. 

Clearly these women support an end to cannabis prohibition, but it appears the rest of the state is slowly coming around as well. The Star-Telegram in Fort Worth recently published the headline “Decriminalizing marijuana makes sense.” The paper’s Editorial Board wrote, “Decriminalization for small amounts of marijuana would reduce the strain on state jails and court systems. In 2015, over 61,000 Texans were arrested for possession of marijuana. Possession of 2 ounces or less has a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail and/or $2,000 fine. Not only is that extreme, it also costs the state time and money to prosecute and house these offenders. Legalization of marijuana, especially for medical use, might not be something the Legislature tackles this year, but it should be discussed. It might be even worth putting on a ballot.”

What makes this more interesting is the fact that the Star-Telegram is owned by the same publisher as the Sacramento Bee, whose own Editorial Board endorsed cannabis prohibition in California. 

The Texan paper then noted that five cannabis-related bills had been filed in December alone, and the Editorial Board highlighted HB81 and SB170 in particular, which would make possession of one ounce or less a civil penalty akin to a traffic ticket. 

Several members of the law enforcement community also support the change. In the Houston area, a new District Attorney named Kim Ogg said, “I never felt it was fair to put users in jails with murderers.” Ogg was recently elected to serve Harris County, home to NRG Stadium, which will host the Super Bowl next month. The local sheriff and police chief support the District Attorney’s vision.

“Violent criminals, that's where we need to have our police officers looking, not searching for people’s weed,” remarked Police Chief Dean Becker. He later added, “The public has been ahead of [the legislators] for a decade or so. Sixty-five percent of people support legislation.”

“I believe Texas is at a tipping point where we're seeing the rest of the country having a sensible marijuana policy,” said Shaun McAlister, the local leader for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), to the NBC affiliate in Fort Worth. 

Texas is a conservative state, but as many progressives get priced out of places like Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco, cities like Dallas and Austin are becoming more liberal and open to change. Consider this: Hillary Clinton got a million votes more in Texas than Donald Trump got in his home state of New York. To put that another way, she lost Texas by only nine points, while Trump lost New York by 23. Add this to the growing number of Texas conservatives who want to end prohibition, and statewide change might soon be on the horizon. 

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