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Friday, August 12, 2022

Opinion

Despite popular belief, Rick Perry still doesn’t support marijuana legalization


Francis Emelgou//The Daily Cougar

Francis Emelgou//The Daily Cougar

Drug courts, rather than jail time, are gaining support from the governor of Texas.

Gov. Rick Perry recently turned heads of many with his statements regarding his support of the decriminalization of marijuana. This comes as a surprise due to Perry being a member of the Republican Party and holding to strict conservative ideals.

While at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Jan. 23, Perry was quoted as saying, “As the governor of the second-largest state in the country, what I can do is start us on policies that can start us on the road towards decriminalization.”

Now, this does not mean that Texas is the next Colorado with the full legalization of marijuana. This does mean, however, that the governor is pushing for “drug courts” rather than jail time for offenders.

According to a report by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, drug courts, “which combine treatment with incentives and sanctions, mandatory and random drug testing, and aftercare, are a proven tool for improving public health and public safety. They provide an innovative mechanism for promoting collaboration among the judiciary, prosecutors, community corrections agencies, drug treatment providers and other community support groups.”

The offerings of drug court programs are not a new revelation, as they have been in use for more than 20 years throughout the United States. Benefits of drug court programs affect offenders as well as state and local governments.

There is much to gain by giving offenders the ability to gain support and have a structure in place to correct abuse of marijuana and possibly other substances, rather than making them face a prison term with no corrective method. Putting offenders through a drug court program, rather than in prison, has proven results.

A U.S. Department of Justice report gathered the re-arrest rates of drug court graduates and found that “84 percent of drug court graduates have not been re-arrested and charged with a serious crime in the first year after graduation, and 72.5 percent have no arrests at the two-year mark.”

Drug courts are also cost-effective methods that save state and local governments money from the initial sentence, as well as those stemming from repeat offenses. According to research and analysis by The Urban Institute, for every $1 spent in the drug court system, the criminal justice system saved $2.21.

This option, as opposed to the legalization of marijuana, would give state and local governments the ability to exercise their powers granted by the U.S. Constitution under the 10th Amendment, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, Perry identifies himself as a “staunch promoter of the 10th Amendment. Then people will decide where they want to live.”

Although the programs in various state and local governments differ, this statewide implementation could mean a great deal to those finding themselves in such a situation. The economic savings, if they hold, could benefit the state greatly as well, keeping many out of jail and prison for such offenses.

The topic of marijuana use has been a hot topic in recent years and does not look to let up.  This approach, although not complete legalization, gives citizens a chance to correct their actions without suffering the consequences of jail time.

Support for this has also come from Ana Yañez-Correa, director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, who said, “The decriminalization of marijuana is not something Perry has historically supported. Perry has gone through a shift; he’s evolved. He represents the transition the state has gone through from being really, really tough on crime to being more sensible about it. It takes courage. There’s a need for that.”

Hopefully this change is a positive move for the state, its prison system and its citizens, with benefits for all to follow.

Opinion columnist Joshua DeYoung is an economics senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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