For the first time, the Texas chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has scraped together enough dough to pay for a full-time lobbyist: Texas NORML Executive Director Howard Wooldridge. During next spring's legislative session, the group hopes to promote catching more drunken drivers as an alternative to penalizing casual marijuana users -- without encouraging marijuana smoking, of course.
At issue for NORML is reducing the sentence for simple marijuana possession from a class B to a class C misdemeanor, which would mean a fine but no arrest, and no potential jail time. The switch would make simple possession the same level of infraction as running a red light, Wooldridge said, and would give police officers more discretion in how they spend their time on the streets. "We want to send a powerful message that simple possession [should] not be a priority," he said. "Officers should be on the streets looking for drunk drivers, as opposed to the person transporting a half-ounce of marijuana under their seat."
Wooldridge should know: He is a retired police officer from Bath Township near Lansing, Mich. "I never got a call that marijuana was causing such a problem that officers needed to respond," he said. "But alcohol, that was nearly every shift."
Until the Lege begins meeting in January, Wooldridge and the Texas NORML chapter will be hard at work, talking to legislators and compiling a database on where everyone stands on their single issue. "We are looking at this very much as a public safety issue," He said. For more information, or to get involved, go to www.normltexas.org.
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