5 Reasons Texas Should Decriminalize Marijuana, and One Reason It Shouldn’t

Last year, 11 separate marijuana-related bills were introduced in the Texas legislature, and next year we can probably expect 11 more. Candidates for local offices in Austin and Houston are running on marijuana decriminalization platforms, and the Dallas City Council is poised to implement a “cite and release” pilot program for low-level possession offenders. It’s beginning to feel like a movement, and forgive us for saying so, but it’s high time.

There are plenty of good reasons to decriminalize marijuana, and only one reason not to:

1. Cops have better things to do.

In 2010, about 75,000 Texans were arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. In 2012, that number was about 70,000. That same year, about 90 percent of the burglaries, home invasions, and car thefts reported in Texas remained unsolved. In Houston alone, 12,000 possession arrests were made in 2013, while 15,000 burglaries, 3,000 hit-and-runs, and 3,000 assaults went uninvestigated.

In 2010, over 850,000 people were arrested for marijuana offenses, 88% of those were for possession only.

There are only so many cops, and only so many hours in the day, and we need to decide where their priorities should lie. Would we rather have them busting college kids and cancer patients and veterans suffering from PTSD or keeping thieves out of our homes and getting our stuff back?

2. Criminalization is insanely expensive.

In 2010, the state of Texas spent a quarter of a billion dollars enforcing marijuana laws, and a staggeringly high percentage of those put through the system were arrested for mere possession. That money would be far better spent elsewhere on schools, infrastructure, tax relief, or literally anything else less ludicrous than putting pot smokers in prison.

Texas spent $251,648,800 enforcing marijuana laws in 2010.

3. Marijuana is (relatively) harmless.

Tobacco kills about half a million Americans every year. Alcohol accounts for another 30,000, and prescription drug abuse claims another 20,000. Marijuana fatalities remain, year after year, at a statistical zero.

Fatalities By Drug Trade

4. Some offenders are more equal than others.

Black people and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rates, but Black people are between 4 and 34 times more likely than white people to be arrested for possession. And thus for a single marijuana charge, more young Black men and women will be denied jobs, school loans, housing assistance, and promising futures.

Blacks in these counties are 4 to 34 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.

5. Nearly everybody’s already on board.

Marijuana decriminalization has been a contentious ideological issue for nearly a century, but today about half of all Americans, and 75 percent of all Texans, support it. And it’s easy to understand why. It’s not every day that issues of personal freedom, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and good science align behind a single issue. This is how you get the likes of  The New York Times editorial board on the same page as conservative firebrands like Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition’s Ann Lee, who has gone on the record to say that “the prohibition of marijuana is diametrically opposed to Republican principles.” Indeed, only two of the current presidential candidates support a blanket criminalization of marijuana.

And one reason not to…

If there’s one thing wrong with the decriminalization movement, it’s that it doesn’t go far enough. Decriminalization would be a welcome first step, but legalization should follow. Were we to adopt Colorado’s robust regulatory structure, Texas would see not only a windfall but an annual profit in the tens of millions of dollars from taxes on marijuana sales. Legalization would likewise disincentivize consumers from pouring money into the cross-border pipeline of illegal weed coming up from the south. And finally, Texans suffering from Alzheimer’s, cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, MS, and PTSD — 22 veterans a day commit suicide in this country — would have access to an effective medication without fear of imprisonment.

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Anonymous

Decimal I've all drugs and we can get our budget on the positive instead of negative
Portugal did it in 2011 and things worked out for them.

Anonymous

We need the ganja now. As in right now!!!

dwightzombie

when president Nixon resigned his presidency so he wouldn't have to release tape recorded conversations they should have undone everything he did including the modern day war on drugs he didn't want those tapes released because he knew at the very least he would spend the rest of his life behind bars if not hung by the neck for treason he was a communist sympathizer and he will have with the stroke of a pen single handedly brought down the united states of America if we don't undo what he did

Anonymous

I would think Texas legislators are aware of the tax benefits legal marijuana sales bring states like Colorado but, cannot ignore the large profits, cash- (not reported by the confiscating officer or not claimed and/or pursued thru litigation by the individual) marijuana brings local police department throughout the state. That cash confiscation along is responsible to building new police departments, new patrol cars and increase in salaries. Stay mindful that in a lot of counties (like Wheeler) the Judge or county commissioner is a farmer wearing overalls half the day.

Anonymous

I would think Texas legislators are aware of the tax benefits legal marijuana sales bring states like Colorado but, cannot ignore the large profits, cash- (not reported by the confiscating officer or not claimed and/or pursued thru litigation by the individual) marijuana brings local police department throughout the state. That cash confiscation along is responsible to building new police departments, new patrol cars and increase in salaries. Stay mindful that in a lot of counties (like Wheeler) the Judge or county commissioner is a farmer wearing overalls half the day.

Anonymous

While recreational pot usage is controversial, many people agree and believe that the drug should be legal for medical uses.

Anonymous

I suffer from pain due to a crushed vertabrae and whiplash when an18 wheeler hit me.I have friends tell me to get some weed and it will help me function and do work. I go to pain management to get some Hydrocodone. I have to take a urine analysis that the DEA has forced on the doctors to prescribe it. Price is outrageous. The lab charges 4100.00 dollars and my insurance negoiates to 600 dollars. If I pay for it myself it is only 99.00 dollors. The DEA needs to let the doctors do their jobs. The doctors no who abuse the drugs. Actually the do not help most of the time.

Anonymous

I have stage 4 D2 prostate cancer and really wish that the option to use marijuana was available to me if i so desired.

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