Reefer Roundup 1/12/11

News from the War on Drugs – Pat Robertson says legalize it?

Reefer Roundup 1/12/11
by courtesy of DEA

According to televangelist Pat Robertson, the tough-on-crime, lock-'em-up approach to drug control simply isn't working. The answer? Perhaps it's legalizing marijuana?

That's exactly what he told viewers of The 700 Club, just before Christmas. Criminalizing marijuana has destroyed lives. Being tough on crime "wasn't the answer," he said. And now we're "locking up people taking a couple of puffs of marijuana and the next thing you know" they're facing long prison terms. And for what? "We've got to look at what we're considering crimes."

Indeed.

PAY AS YOU GO:

The Texas Lege is back in session and lawmakers have already filed a smattering of drug-related bills – most of them proposing new or enhanced penalties of possession of substances or paraphernalia (as expected, Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano will hold a press conference this morning to announce her proposed ban on not-pot. More on that in a later post).

Nonetheless, there are a handful of smart-on-drugs proposals (like Rep. Ruth McClendon's needle exchange bill – you can read more about that in our Lege Preview feature that will run tomorrow, Thursday) and a few others that seek to reduce the corruption that naturally flows from the endless War on Drugs. Among those is Sen. John Whitmire's proposal to reform the state's asset forfeiture laws.

Regular Reefer readers know that Texas' asset forfeiture system is bad at best and, on occasion, actually amounts to highway robbery, as was the case in the East Texas town of Tenaha, where police were literally ripping off pass-through motorists under the color of law. Whitmire's SB 316 would be a good first step to fixing the problem. The bill would prevent a prosecutor from obtaining a waiver of rights to property until a forfeiture suit has actually been filed, Whitmire's office explained in a recent press release. (The law also contains a list of prohibited uses for forfeited assets.) "Without proper guidelines and transparency, these events can lead to the worst case scenario of highway piracy, as we have so painfully observed in several cases across the state," Whitmire said.

COPS HAVE THE MOST DRUGS:

According to numbers from the Dept. of Public Safety, it appears that 2010 was a record year for drug seizures in Texas – which has to leave you wondering, does the War on Drugs actually work?

Although some would think that endless prohibition and criminalization of drugs would actually reduces supply and demand, it appears the opposite is actually occurring. In 2010, according to preliminary totals for seizures from Jan 1 through Dec. 29, DPS seized more than 4,000 pounds of cocaine and more than 239,000 pounds of marijuana last year. The agency also reports seizing roughly 56 pounds of heroin and almost 663 pounds of meth. Compared to 2001, 2004 and 2006 numbers, it doesn't appear the whole prohibition strategy is actually working.

But we're gonna go ahead and stick with that approach, I'm sure.

Happy New Year!

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SB 316, Pat Robertson, marijuana, Reefer Madness, drug reform, Ruth McClendon, needle exchange, war on drugs, asset forfeiture, drug seizures, not-pot

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