AUSTIN, Texas – Seventy-four percent of Texas adults say the maximum punishment for being caught with pot should be changed from a criminal penalty to a ticket or fine, according to a new poll conducted by The Texas Lyceum.
Heather Fazio, Texas political director with the Marijuana Policy Project, says spending thousands of dollars prosecuting people for minor possession or consumption doesn’t make sense to taxpayers. She says decriminalizing marijuana could also free up the criminal justice system to focus on violent crime.
“I’m a limited government kind of girl, and I think one of the core functions of government is the facilitation of justice,” she says. “We’re not able to fulfill that duty when our law enforcement officers are distracted and our courts are flooded.”
In the last session, Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso) proposed legislation that would have replaced the threat of arrest, jail time and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a maximum civil fine of $250. The bill was not passed out of committee.
The Texas Lyceum poll found less support for making pot legal in Texas, with 46 percent in favor compared to 50 percent opposed.
Fazio says people of color are more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, and almost 75 percent of those arrested are younger than 30. She says saddling young people with criminal records can limit their access to education, employment and housing.
“Taking a more sensible approach is going to save taxpayer dollars,” she says. “And it’s going to really positively affect the future of many young people who otherwise would be productive members of society.”
The poll found a clear majority of Texans who oppose the full legalization of pot in the state were in favor of decriminalization, regardless of political affiliation, age or ethnicity.
Author: Eric Galatas – Texas News Service