Wu: Reduce pot possession <.35 ounces to ticket-only misdemeanor
Houston state Rep. Gene Wu has filed legislation, HB 325, to reduce possession of up to .35 ounces of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor. While Grits generally supports penalty reduction for pot possession, .35 ounces seems like an odd cutoff point. Presently, possession of up to two ounces is a Class B misdemeanor based on the assumption that such lesser amounts represent personal use levels. I see little reason to treat someone possessing a half ounce for personal use differently than someone possessing a quarter ounce. To my mind, the best solution would be to ratchet down current penalty categories by one level, not to create a new category to carve out small amounts.
That said, I'm incredibly appreciative that Wu's raising the issue at all and would not let the perfect become the enemy of the good by opposing the idea. But recent polling indicates the public would support more aggressive reforms.
Surging toward inanity
Following up on themes from recent Grits posts, check out a pair of recent stories on the politics of Texas' border "surge":
- Lubbock Avalanche Journal: Rangel: Border security becoming even bigger issue
- El Paso Times (editorial): Texas leaders lack data on 'surge' impact
A Starr County sheriff's deputy was arrested smuggling pot through a border checkpoint.
Pregnant in jail
Check out an SA Current story titled "The fight for better care for pregnant women in Texas jails" which informs us that a coalition of groups led by the Texas Jail Project is "calling on the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to implement more robust, detailed policies and procedures to ensure pregnant women get proper obstetric, prenatal and postpartum care while they're incarcerated in Texas county jails. The coalition argues that, with more than 200 county jails statewide, the commission's minimum standards aren't strong enough, nor are county jails held accountable if appropriate care isn't available, creating a dangerous situation for expectant inmates."
Why grand juries don't indict cops
Riffing off the Ferguson kerfuffle, FiveThirtyEight has a column speculating on reasons grand juries almost never indict police officers. Scott Greenfield points out that, in the Ferguson case, the prosecutor did not actually ask the grand jury to indict. Their role was essentially to function as a stage prop in political theater. MORE: From Al Jazeera America, see "Why police are rarely indicted for misconduct" and from The Atlantic, check out a piece from Conor Friedersdorf on why the case more police reform is bigger than Ferguson and the Michael Brown killing.
Explaining the Great American Crime Decline
An article from the new Marshall Project suggests various hypotheses for the jaw-dropping decline in crime witnessed across the country since the early 1990s. The essay that reminded me of Grits own, similar compilation of hypotheses a couple of years ago, though he didn't mention my personal favorite "video game" theory, which holds that young men spending hours playing Grand Theft Auto on an XBox have less time to spend on the streets stealing my car. The National Academy of Sciences recently published an extensive report on this topic. See an overview essay on their findings and find the full report here.
Obama's clemency record sucks
Grits may complain that Texas governors under-use the pardon power, but it bears repeating that President Barack Obama's clemency record sucks harder than any American president in living memory.
Shameless self promotion
Grits was nominated for the American Bar Association's Blawg 100 list of top legal blogs which are chosen by reader votes. Go here to vote for Grits in the criminal justice section and to check out the list of other nominated blogs.