Saturday, September 29, 2007

2/3 of Grits readers say "Legalize pot"

Time to post the results from last week's reader poll. Following up on this Grits item, the question was:
According to the GAO, 14.6 million Americans smoked marijuana last month. Should all these people be arrested?
Out of 425 people who responded to the survey (!), only 5% of you thought it made sense to arrest marijuana smokers, while a whopping 2/3 (67%) believed marijuana should be straight up legalized. The rest didn't support full-blown legalization but also thought arrest was inappropriate.

While Grits readers' opinions surely don't jibe exactly with public opinion (that's almost double the national figure I last saw for legalization support), other data makes me think Texans are leaning away from jailing pot smokers. In Nacogdoches recently in Deep East Texas, the Daily Sentinel asked in a non-scientific web poll what should be done about that county's overcrowded jail. Six percent said rent more beds, 28% said build a bigger jail, while 66% supported "routing certain types of offenders to other non-jail sanctions, services and options." (See p. 25 of this pdf report.)

In Nacogdoches and elsewhere in the state, the most immediate way to route low-level offenders out of the jail is implementation of HB 2391, signed by Governor Perry earlier this year. That new law allows citations instead of arrest at an officer's discretion for certain nonviolent misdemeanors. Texas isn't about to "legalize" marijuana in the near term (though legislation was filed in each of the last two sessions to lower pot penalties), but HB 2391 is the best short-term vehicle for diverting pot smokers and other low-risk offenders from local jails.

In fact, here's a good homework project for Grits readers who oppose arrest for pot offenses: Call your local police or sheriff's department and find out whether they're allowing their officers to exercise this new discretion under HB 2391, then come back and let us know in the comments (or via email) what they say. If they're not doing it, be sure write a letter to the editor of the local paper explaining why they should, and forward a copy to your local pols.

I think if people did that, they'd find more public support in most parts of the state compared to a decade ago. These two non-scientific surveys tell me Texans may be less interested in locking up small-time pot offenders than a lot of our "tuff on crime" politicians tend to believe, at least when the issue is framed in terms of dollars and sense.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have bunch dope heads reading your blog.You should be very proud of that.

Jeff Young

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Perhaps, Jeff, but I doubt seriously that's true. A previous site survey found that half of Grits readers work in criminal justice-related fields.

Nationally 36% of Americans support legalization, but only 6% smoked pot recently according to federal stats. Most people who support legalization by far are not pot smokers.

And indeed, for the most part I'm quite proud of Grits' commenters.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff Young, you made a claim that doesn't seem to match up with the evidence. You going to admit your folly>

Anonymous said...

Well the other 64% disapprove of it.As for criminal justice-related fields ,what Parole thats a joke.There brain dead.

Jeff Young

Anonymous said...

Legalizing pot is bad for the economy. Think of all the street pushers who'll flood the job market and the tax increases to supplement the cops' need to make up for loss in asset forfeiture.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Young

I'm in favor of legalization of pot and I do not use it.

It may be more telling to state what most Grits readers are not. For example, they are probably not "hidebound conservatives". They are also not ignorant!

Anonymous said...

Well the other 64% disapprove of it.As for criminal justice-related fields ,what Parole thats a joke.There brain dead.

Jeff Young


Jeff, are you a Parole Officer I, II, or III? :)

Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, parole and probation officers, TDCJ employees, TYC employees, substance abuse treatment employees, legislators, and others read GFB.

I'd be curious to know how proportional the vote by criminal justice professionals is with non CJ employees.

Anonymous said...

I don't use it either, but it should be legal. Prohibition of alcohol didn't work, but we didn't learn our lesson.

Dreadlocks and all said...

Mon, don't give us up Jeff Young mon...

JSN said...

A criminal law is supposed to protect public safety. In the case of pot only those who use pot are protected all of the others don't need protection. How much protection do the pot users need? It appears to me the consequences of dealing with the CJ system are more serious than those from using pot.

We are not getting much bang for our buck pot is readily available so interdiction efforts have been a flop. We would be better off if we taxed at the same rate we tax alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Marijuana use ...

. destroys relationships with God
. ruins families and family values
. devastates personal finances
. lose interest in work and school
. leads to more drug use
. promotes violent crimes
. leads users to be homeless
. (add your own stupid assumptions)

It’s a plant. Legalize personal consumption.

Anonymous said...

JSN is correct!

Incarceration and its consequences are far more dangerous than the use of pot.

Incarceration:

. destroys relationships with God
. ruins families and family values
. devastates personal finances
. lose interest in work and school
. leads to more drug use
. promotes violent crimes
. leads users to be homeless
. (add your own experience)

The 64% of the general population that support the criminalization of pot could benefit from more education on the subject.

Ken Sparks said...

Remember that a citation instead of an arrest under HB 2391 is only available to residents of the county where the arrest occurred.

RustyWhite said...

Sadly the reality of our situation has once again been biases and self serving agendas! This new law was NOT due to common sense but simply due to an corrupt and overloaded system!

And even more disgusting is those who refuse to accept it and use it to alleviate the abuse to our state and our people. Many DA's and Law Enforcement Departments openly say the will not utilize this new tool??? That is the same mentality that has MANY COUMMUNITIES around the country REPLACING those public servants that REFUSE to follow the direction of those THEY ARE SUPPOSEDLY SERVING, AS THEY SHOULD!

If public servants do not have to follow the laws and the will of the voters and tax payers, NOBODY HAS TO!! While true it is up to the officer, the law would not even have been created if the public didn't support it, FACT!

There Has To Be A Better Way!!!

Rusty White
Speaker www.leap.cc