Proponents of marijuana decriminalization now have an ally in the most unexpected of places: The Texas Governor’s mansion. It seems that Rick Perry — long an opponent of recreational and even medicinal weed — is now in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. Don’t get him wrong — he still thinks it should be illegal. But on Thursday, Perry said that he wants to soften penalties for non-violent marijuana offenders and offer them treatment instead of prison time.
“As governor, I have begun to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization,” Perry said at a panel in Switzerland that he was at for some reason. His spokeswoman later confirmed this, telling San Antonio Express-News that the governor supports “more of a fine or counseling or some sort of program where you don't end up in jail but in a rehabilitative program.”
Marijuana has been decriminalized in 15 states. The law varies from state to state, but in general, getting caught with “only” an ounce of weed in a decriminalized state carries a penalty of a couple hundred bucks and no jail time. By comparison, having under two ounces of weed in Texas can land you a $2,000 fine and six months in jail. Over 15,000 people are incarcerated in Texas for drug possession offenses.
Ana Yañez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, said that she was "shocked" to hear the news, but nonetheless "very happy to hear that the governor supports a more rehabilitative approach."
If Perry wants to follow the lead of another very conservative state, he’ll implement an Alaska-style decriminalization plan, which would allow Texans to have marijuana in the privacy of their own homes without any penalty at all. That would surely be a great way to respect individual rights and get big government out of people’s lives, no?