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CON: Drug use should stay a crime

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
June 10, 2012 at 1:10 a.m.
Updated June 11, 2012 at 1:11 a.m.


TEXAS MARIJUANA LAWS

Under 2 ounces, class B misdemeanor, up to 180 days in county jail, fine up to $2,000.

2 to 4 ounces, class A misdemeanor, up to one year in county jail, up to $4,000 fine.

4 ounces to 5 pounds, state jail felony, 180 days to two years instate jail, fine up to $10,000.

5 to 50 pounds, third-degree felony, 2 to 10 years in prison, fine up to $10,000.

50 to 2,000 pounds, second-degree felony, 2 to 20 years in prison, fine up to $10,000.

More than 2,000 pounds, first degree felony, 2 to 99 years or life in prison, fine up to $50,000.

Source: Texas Penal Code Sec. 481.121.

Should small amounts of marijuana be legalized?

"It may not be healthy, but there are worse crimes than carrying small amounts of marijuana." Jessica Castillo, 29, nurse, Victoria

"I'm not for it because I don't think people will be responsible with it," LaTonya Jackson, 20, student, San Marcos

"It shouldn't remain the crime it is today. Keeping it out of children's hands is the main thing, but when you're a little older and want to smoke a little weed, why should it be a crime?" Michael Cortright, 53, Oil patch, Victoria

"I think they should decriminalize possession for any amount of marijuana," Trey Cole, 18, Hastings, Victoria

Two of the nations leading policy makers, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, have publicly stated they do not support the legalization of marijuana.

It seems antithetical, then, that at least 10 states, both red and blue, have introduced legal variations of decriminalizing the drug - reducing marijuana possession to civil rather than criminal offenses.

But even though the general public may be evenly split on whether to legalize pot, a large population of Americans are speaking out to maintain its illegality.

Ron Reyna, a Victoria County Democratic Party delegate who attended the Democratic Party Convention in Houston last week, was opposed to one of the resolutions his party presented for consideration to the platform - marijuana legalization.

"Any amount is an impairment. And you can't test for a percentage impairment. You can't do a breathalyzer for it," Reyna said. "It's not worth what it can do to our children, or anybody else."

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration stated on its website there is "significant progress" in fighting overall drug use and trafficking in the U.S. Overall drug use is down by a third of a percent in the last 20 years

"I think I represent a large amount of the Democratic Party with my view," Reyna said. "I think it's a small vocal group that's bringing this issue to the forefront. The small, few get noticed. I don't believe as a whole the Democratic Party wants to accept it."

One of the arguments for legalizing marijuana, in addition to reducing crime and freeing up law enforcement resources for more serious crimes, is that it has medical benefits for cancer patients.

But the USDEA states the medical benefits of marijuana have already been isolated into in a FDA-approved pill called Marinol.

The USDEA website sates, "Unlike smoked marijuana - which contains more than 400 different chemicals, including most of the hazardous chemicals found in tobacco smoke - Marinol has been studied and approved by the medical community and the Food and Drug Administration. There are no FDA-approved medications that are smoked."

"Smoking is generally a poor way to deliver medicine. It is difficult to administer safe, regulated dosages of medicines in smoked form."

"Secondly, the harmful chemicals and carcinogens that are byproducts of smoking create entirely new health problems. A marijuana joint contains four times the level of tar in a marijuana than in a tobacco cigarette."

Victoria Police Sgt. Lee Lemmons said the department maintains an aggressive stance against marijuana possession of any amount.

"As long as the state legislature and United States Congress says it's illegal, we're going to do everything we can to enforce that," Lemmons said.

Lemmons said Victoria police regularly encounter people in possession of marijuana and make regular vehicle stops where drugs may be in the car.

"It's a common occurrence. It's not 50 percent of traffic stops, but it's common," he said.

But Lemmons disagrees that decriminalizing weed would have any effect on overall drug use, or help to reduce crime.

"I don't think it would lessen crime if they were to limit arrests for small amounts of marijuana," Lemmons said. "I think the people who are going to use it, are going to use it. And I don't think reducing the crime of possession will lure someone into using it just because the penalty is lessened."

Lemmons also said legalizing marijuana of any amount would be "impossible to regulate" from a state and law enforcement perspective.

Reyna said the marijuana laws are on the books for a reason - to protect people from doing wrong, as well as protect them from themselves, whether it is alcohol or any other sort of intoxication.

"I don't agree with driving while buzzed, either. If you're going to drink, you need to stay home," Reyna said. "No amount of alcohol or marijuana is acceptable when it's my kids who could be harmed. And you can take a user and ask if they would give it to their 12-year-old kid, and they'll tell you they wouldn't do it."

To read the pro side of this story, click here.

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