In This Texas Pro-Weed Ad, Ex-Cop Russell Jones Supports Decriminalizing Marijuana By Comparing It To Alcohol's Effects — VIDEO
If you have ever had doubts about the national push to legalize marijuana, perhaps the first-hand perspective from a former law enforcement official will change your mind. In a new Texas pro-marijuana ad, an ex-cop supports a bill decriminalizing marijuana that is currently making its way through the state legislature. Released Tuesday, two days before the legislation's midnight deadline for the Texas House's approval before it moves to the Senate, the 30-second ad featured Russell Jones, a retired California narcotics detective who now lives in Central Texas.
Jones said the the state should consider a more "sensible" approach to marijuana, comparing it to the far more destructive effects of alcohol:
I know of no instance in my entire career where someone was acting out under the influence of marijuana. People under the influence of alcohol are much more problematic. Law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time than arresting people for marijuana possession. They need to be there to protect the public to respond to crimes such as robbery, burglaries, rape, and murders.
The commercial will run through the bill's Thursday deadline on CNN, ESPN, and Fox News Channel in Texas' biggest media markets: Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.
The bill in question is HB 507: It would decriminalize marijuana, reducing the penalty to a maximum civil fine of $250 for less than an ounce of possession, The Huffington Post reported. Under the current state law, the maximum penalty for possession of less than two ounces is a severe six month-prison term and a $2,000 fine. Sponsored by El Paso Democratic Rep. Joe Moody, it was approved by the Texas House Committee and now awaits state House lawmakers' approval.
If passed, HB 507 would not only pave the way for changing societal perceptions on marijuana, it would also reduce the prevalence of mass incarceration that unfairly discriminates against black communities, a conversation that is gaining tract in the wake of Freddie Gray's death and the protests that followed.
A 2013 study from the American Civil Liberties Union found that black people are almost four times likelier to be arrested for weed possession that whites, even though the two groups use marijuana at about the same rates. The disparity is particularly stark in Texas, were the frequency of such arrests propelled the state to second place nationally in total arrests for marijuana possession. ACLU reported that the efforts were a waste of close to $300 million in state taxpayers' money.
According to The Huffington Post, Heather Fazio, the Texas political director for Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement of the bill:
This is commonsense legislation that is intended to reduce government waste and improve public safety. Voters want law enforcement officials to spend their time and resources addressing serious crimes, not arresting and jailing adults for simple marijuana possession. We hope the House will pass this important legislation before time runs out.
A number of marijuana-related bills are being considered in the Texas state legislature, Huffington Post reported, but their chances at becoming law during this current legislative session are slim — Gov. Greg Abbott said conservative lawmakers who dominate the legislature will likely not approve such bills, including HB 507.
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