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Texas to reclassify marijuana?

It could happen.

And I could not offer you, gentile reader, a more emphatic note of support than this ...




What we have here is a bill, HB 758, proposed by Rep. Harold Dutton, of Harris County.

Should HB 758 pass the Texas House, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana would be moved from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor.

The difference between the two is pretty large. Class C requires no jail time, but still sticks the offender with a $500 fine. Class B carries the weight of up to 180 days in jail - enough to financially break most young people struggling to support themselves - and a fine of up to $1,000.

Given that the leading cause of jail sentences in our state are small marijuana possession charges, reclassifying possession under one ounce to Class C would save Texas taxpayers an enormous sum that would otherwise be footed to house these non-violent offenders.

Speaking personally, I have known and do presently know a good many people who are not unfamiliar with pot. They are good people. They are productive, responsible, tax paying, otherwise law abiding people. To think that we as a state would deprive them of liberty for 180 days for possessing a small amount of what many view as a relatively harmless herb when used responsibly ... Let's just say that it depresses me greatly.

These people lose their jobs and places of residence when they are arrested. It begins a tailspin that can and usually does lead to further abuse of marijuana, and other, more dangerous drugs upon their release. It is destructive in every way ... Much more so than the addiction its self.

By reclassifying small marijuana possession to a Class C misdemeanor, not only will we continue to send the message to our youth that using marijuana is wrong, but we will continue to hold the punishment aspect close at hand. It is not a sea change in public policy.

This will also allow us to increase penalties for the use and abuse of more dangerous and destructive drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine. It will help protect the futures of our children, not to mention younger citizens in their 20's who are just getting their careers started, finally looking at getting out of the rent race, thinking about starting families ... Just because they made a stupid mistake and chose to only "harm" themselves doesn't mean we have to bust them out of home and work, which is exactly what happens.

(I say "harm" because most pot - the average quality stuff - is more benign than alcohol, and it can't kill you, unlike the drink. And man, do we EVER love our booze here in Texas.)

Given society's softening stance toward the herb, and the FACT that more than a third of our citizens have tried or do regularly use this particular substance, I think it is time we conduct ourselves in a manor more reflective of public opinion and conservative fiscal responsibility.

If you agree with me, contact your Representative in the Texas House NOW. Don't wait. Just do it. Right now. Send an email. Make a phone call. Whatever. So long as it is done before you get up from your computer.

This needs to happen.

No, your humble muckraker is not on a "free the stoners" tip. But if we are ever going to develop an intelligent drug policy that truly addresses the dire threat of addiction in society, we must take baby steps. So let's free up some prison space and make more funds available for battling LETHAL addictions. Its all about priorities ... We need to do this for the sake of our children.

Unless, of course, you LIKE seeing dead high school students and deviant 20-somethings running a-muck on the news. In which case, I'm not talking to you anyway.

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