An outspoken Perry forces the issue as decriminalization gains steam in U.S.
Published in The Mercury Jan. 27, 2014
Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott are keeping mum regarding their stances on marijuana policies as the primaries of what will be one of the most watched gubernatorial races looms closer.
On Jan. 8, one day after the Dallas Morning News published an editorial in favor of medical marijuana and decriminalization, along with poll data indicating a majority of Texans favor regulating and taxing the substance, DMN writer Rodger Jones contacted both Davis’s and Abbott’s office, for the newspaper’s second attempt to learn each candidate’s stance to no avail.
Perhaps marijuana is politically shaky ground, where politicians are hesitant to plant their feet on one side or the other. But for the two frontrunners for governor to not address an issue receiving considerable press coverage and inform voters of their stances, is irresponsible.
Indeed, Davis, the Democratic state senator from Fort Worth, and Abbott, the Republican state attorney general, are not the only prominent Texas politicians who have avoided discussing weed for the entirety of their public service. Ted Cruz seems to have no official stance according to his website, while ontheissues.org has no recorded public comments of Cruz addressing drug policy.
To the surprise of many, retiring governor Rick Perry said during a World Economic Forum panel in Switzerland on Jan. 23 that he would work to soften criminal penalties for minor offenses, emphasize rehabilitation over incarceration and pave the way for Texas to decriminalize marijuana.
Proponents of marijuana policy reform have twice attempted to work modest versions of this idea through the Texas Legislature’s previous session in 2013: HB 184 would have reduced the penalties for possession of pot to a non-jailable offense for those under 21 with no prior convictions, while HB 594 would have given seriously ill patients a defense against possession charges by allowing them to demonstrate their use was for medical purposes. The House did not vote on HB 184 before the close of the session, and HB 594 was left pending and did not advance through the lege.
Despite these unsuccessful attempts, it’s likely a new bill will be put forth when the lege reconvenes in 2015. Fifty-eight percent of Texans favor regulation and taxation of marijuana and only 38 percent oppose, according to Public Policy Polling. This decisive majority will hold considerable sway if and when a bill is introduced. The new governor cannot be unprepared.
Voters are lacking important information about Davis and Abbott as the March primary elections loom around the corner. The War on Drugs, the crowding of state prisons and a huge amount of taxpayer money are at stake in this issue, regardless of where one may stand.
Sooner rather than later, Davis and Abbott must answer the constituents they hope to win in November.