I have said it before and I’ll say it again, Texas is not an easy place to be a marijuana consumer. It doesn’t sound as harsh a state like Idaho, but it’s still a very tough state to be in as a marijuana fan. As I always point out, Texas does not have a citizen initiative process, so unlike many other states that have reformed marijuana laws, the only way to reform laws in Texas is via the Texas Legislature.
Currently in Texas, possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable up up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Possession of between 2 and 4 ounces is still a misdemeanor, doubles the fine, and results in up to a year of jail time for the person that is caught. Considering that there are four states in America where possession of marijuana is legal (and DC), those penalties seem ridiculous.
And that’s not just my opinion. That’s also the opinion of jurors in at least one county in Texas. Per the Star Telegram:
“Jurors would look at us like we are crazy,” Travis County prosecutor Dan Hamre told the newspaper. “‘You are spending your time, our time and the court’s time on a small amount of personal marijuana?'”
“Nobody goes through three years of law school and becomes prosecutors so they can rap the knuckles of someone for smoking a joint,” said Shannon Edmonds, who’s in charge of governmental relations at the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association. “It’s not what draws them to the profession or gets them excited about doing justice.”
Jurors don’t want to punish people for personal marijuana possession. It sounds like there are at least some Texas prosecutors who don’t want it. So cops should be on board too right? Wrong. According to the article, the amount of misdemeanor marijuana offense filings has remained steady, even as dismissal rates have grown across the state.
To be fair, a lot of cases are dismissed not because the authorities feel that marijuana prohibition is unjust, but usually because the offender has completed an out of court drug program. That’s maybe not quite as harsh as a jail sentence, but it’s still completely ridiculous.
If jurors don’t want to prosecute someone for possessing marijuana, why would they want cops investigating and arresting people for marijuana? I bet if you polled jurors in Texas, and asked them what is the appropriate approach to personal marijuana use – wasting resources and sending people to rehab, or just being done with prohibition entirely, I’d bet a strong majority of them would say legalize it and be done with it.
Marijuana prohibition doesn’t work. Not in Texas, or anywhere else that it exists. Forcing people to go to rehab only because they used a plant, and not because there’s any proven harm caused by that possession or consumption, is inhumane. I’m encouraged by the rise in dismissals in Texas, but I think until prohibition is ended, and people no longer have to supply their urine for testing in order to keep their freedom, it’s just putting lipstick on a pig.