Saturday, September 29, 2018

Abbott endorses reduced pot penalties during gubernatorial debate

An email from Texas NORML brings the news that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed reducing penalties for low-level marijuana possession in last night's debate. They put out the image at right that included his money quote on the topic.

Go here to watch a video clip of the candidates' exchange regarding pot policy.

Notably, the Republican Party of Texas earlier this year endorsed reducing the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a civil penalty carrying a small fine. However, Gov. Abbott endorsed a slightly different proposal: Reducing penalties to a Class C misdemeanor.

What's the difference?

There are collateral consequences under federal law that attach to any criminal drug conviction, one of the most significant being denial of access to student loans, among others. Creating a new civil penalty would avoid those collateral consequences, which are not triggered by a civil fine.

Gov. Abbott's proposal - simply reducing the penalty by one category-level to a Class C - would have much the same effect on punishment practices. Most people would receive tickets instead of being arrested, so counties wouldn't have to pay for incarceration or hire them lawyers if they're indigent. The maximum punishment would be a fine, not jail time.

The argument in favor of the Governor's approach: It's a cleaner fix, legally speaking. Texas doesn't presently have civil penalties for much besides the Driver Responsibility surcharge, which itself is larded on top of criminal penalties, not levied instead of them. (Toll roads are the other main example.) Indeed, even business regulations here are typically enforced via criminal statutes. That's why, for example, Texas has so many felonies its citizens can commit with an oyster. The Legislature avoids regulation so much, they even choose to criminalize discouraged business practices.

For me, the civil penalty is the better bill, given the two options. The issue of collateral consequences is a big one, and no joke. But either proposal would be a big improvement over the status quo, as presently more than 60,000 people are arrested and jailed every year in Texas on low-level marijuana charges.

UPDATE: Since we're revisiting this discussion, just for fun, here's a jingle Just Liberty used to promote the civil penalties bill in 2017.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lets legalize and use tax from sales to fund state trauma centers. Great solution for ending the horrible mess the driver surcharge program has brought us.

j davis said...

Unless the legislature changes the applicable statutes, under Subchapter P, Chapter 521, Transportation Code, a person's driver's license will be automatically suspended for a possession of marijuana conviction, even if the offense is a Class C misdemeanor.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Sorry Grits, but my choice is Abbott's choice - keeping pot possession a criminal offense. The law in Texas prohibits possession of pot. Right or wrong, that's the law. People who do not agree with a law, including what they believe to be a bad law, have no right to break that law. When they do, they have knowingly committed a crime and should be punished for a crime, not with a civil penalty.

As for the collateral consequences of a Class C misdemeanor, TOUGH SHIT! When one gets caught knowingly and deliberately breaking a law, he has no right to call the consequences a foul.

Anonymous said...

We have every right to call bad laws foul whether we break them or not. Right or wrong the law is subject to change, and everyone criminals and non criminals alike have a right to demand change, even if it pisses off grumpy old cops.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@BGB, the issue isn't offenders calling "the consequences foul," it's that, from the perspective of the ENFORCERS, the juice isn't worth the squeeze. Why do you think it's a good idea to forbid pot smokers from getting student loans?

If you agree pot possession less than 2 oz should be a Class C misdemeanor, you agree it's basically not a very big deal in the scheme of forbidden conduct - as Gov. Abbott declared, not worth taking up jail space.

Given that, insisting pot possessors can no longer get student loans a) is a disproportionate punishment for a little-deal crime, b) harms the economy and the tax base because people who don't attend college earn less, and c) boosts recidivism among pot offenders. I'm not sure what benefit you see that outweighs those detriments, but maybe you'll tell us.

Tim said...

Pot possessors are almost certainly pot users whom most/many drive on public roadways with pot in their system with the potential for intoxication. Intoxication and driving often results in traffic crashes, injuries, and death.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Grits, I agree with Anon 11:07 when he says "everyone criminals and non criminals alike have a right to demand change." But until the law is changed. it's still a crime. Do the crime, do the time says this grumpy old ex-cop (Hey, I like that!).

"... harms the economy and the tax base because people who don't attend college earn less." OMG, the country could go bankrupt if we punish people for breaking certain laws.

Punishing pot offenders "boosts recidivism among pot offenders." Now that's rich, Grits, really rich! You've sure got this grumpy old ex-cop laughing with that joke.

What did you have for breakfast this morning, Grits ... marijuana-laced cereal?







Anonymous said...

Even as the State of Colorado is building public schools with state collected pot taxes we here in Texas give everyone more assurances that we are the slow learners in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

So, the Great State of Texas has shown it’s great wisdom by putting the DPS in charge of medical cannabis. What could possibly go wrong there? I’m hearing the Flatt & Scruggs getaway music now.

Anonymous said...

cops need p c to search cars that is why they want to make it class c that is the real reason.

Unknown said...

Love it

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@BGB, didn't say punishing pot offenders in any way boosts recidivism, I said taking away access to student loans does. There's a significant correlation between education and crime rates - taking away people's future opportunities makes them more likely to commit crimes goin forward. FTM, I know you don't believe research if it contradicts your assumptions (one of the problems with grumpy old cops, in my experience) but there's a substantial body of research showing that incarceration of low-risk offenders like pot smokers INCREASES the likelihood they commit more crime. Doesn't really matter if you believe it.

11:04 has IMO identified the real, underlying motivation behind most of the LE hesitation over civil penalties.

George said...

Grits, we all know the mindset of BGB, he's a genuine dumbass set in his ways and stuck in the past. The legislature should go ahead and legalize the personal consumption and growth of pot. For the Guv to come out and say that it should basically be a fine instead of jail, to me he's saying it's not a big deal. Extrapolate that out a bit why don't we?

People in Texas have been consuming pot for many, many years and it's use will continue whether it's unlawful to do so or not. Abbott is right that we shouldn't fill up our jails with consumers of pot. What he's wrong about is his belief that it should be illegal at all. It should be regulated, if anything, and that's only for the commodity that's offered for sale to the 21 and over crowd of consumers. By removing the present day supplier, i.e. drug dealer, we'd all be much better off.


Texas' demographics they are a'changing and if we are to continue to grow and remain attractive to new economic incentives and population growth, we need to stop promoting the regressive beliefs of our tainted past ( yes, Texas, along with many other states does indeed have a sordid past involving many issues ). Idiots such as BGB don't advocate for change because they're content to remain with the status quo, and with all the ugly baggage that goes with it.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter if Texas makes marijuana legal, it will still be illegal due to federal law. I would support the federal government suspending some or all federal funding to states that chose to make and illegal drug legal.

Sam said...

If legalization occurs, how does one propose addressing use and diving for intoxication purposes? Weed like alcohol affects many different, but alcohol has a generally established benchmark of .08. If legalized like alcohol, I understand weed stays in your system longer.

Unless addressed also, I foresee this coming up on this blog in the future with the possible title, "unintended consequences of marijuana legalization" when either people start dying more frequently in traffic crashes and/or LE starts arresting more for DWI, intoxication assault, etc and the science may or may not be there.

8:16AM - You state "People in Texas have been consuming pot for many, many years and it's use will continue whether it's unlawful to do so or not." You speak of the minority of Texans for which consume pot as the majority do not. I'm not opposed to legalization of pot nor am I opposed to legalized casinos in Texas. However, would you or anyone supportive of legalized marijuana be fine with LE, correctional officers, teachers, surgeons and commerical pilots being able to enjoy the same freedoms of legalized marijuana before they go to work as you and others?

Sam said...

9:16A here "diving" = meant to type "driving"

BarkGrowlBite said...

I like grumpy old cop better than 'genuine dumbass' or 'idiot.' I would suggest that all you advocates for pot are genuine dumbasses and idiots.

James Innes said...

BarkGrowlBite - Further proving that you are the 'dumbass' in this conversation.

SEMPER FINE said...

Hey, Barretta growl bite:
What sense does it make to suspend a person's drivers license for 6 months for having a roach in the ashtray? Absolutely none, unless you just want to generate money for the state from someone who didn't harm anyone else.
In a better alternative universe, they would suspend driver's licenses for assault/family violence or class b and above theft. There are identifiable victims in those cases.
Instead of grumpy old cop, which I bet is your aggrandized troll nom de plume, I'm reminded more of "Arizona" by Paul Lindsay and the Raiders.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? Driving Under the Influence is already used to prosecute people who drive high, and just because pot is legal doesn't mean it isn't cause for termination by an employer. Do you think Airline Pilots that takeoff from Colorado are toking up at terminal before a flight?

Being drunk or high at work is a company policy (or still against the law in Aviation regardless of what the states say) and is driven by owners personal opinions and and business insurers. Do you think your premium isn't going to skyrocket if you stop drug testing safety critical employees?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Y'all, the name calling should stop. I was poking him with Grumpy Cop, I admit, but "idiot" and "dumbass" go too far.

I appreciate BGB commenting here, fwiw. I tend to learn more from people who disagree with me.

schrodinger said...

Alcohol is legal, but an airline pilot can't have a few beers in the airport before that 4 hour flight to "wherever". If I'm not mistaken, a pilot is not allowed to drink for a certain period before flying-- I believe it's 8 hours from "bottle to throttle", and flying an aircraft with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04% or higher is prohibited in the US. Some countries have even more strict rules. India says absolutely NO alcohol in the system before flying (0.00% BAC). So why not have similar rules for pilots and others in "sensitive" positions when it comes to pot? I believe a saliva test would be better for detecting recent usage than a urine test,which can remain positive for a few weeks to a few months, depending on how heavily one uses pot (including 'edibles'). A saliva test detects usage that took place within the past 12-24 hours. The higher the level, the more drug ingested or the more recently the drug was used. Delta 9 THC, the psychoactive compound in pot that gets you high, has been measured in oral fluid up to 72 hours after smoking. The higher the level of detection, the more recent and/or the heavier the consumption. This makes saliva testing a more accurate detector of recent use and potential impairment than a urine test that picks up metabolites from usage as long as a month ago-- well beyond the point where someone could possibly be impaired.

schrodinger said...

I would also like to add that slapping a low-level MJ offender with a harsh criminal record also boosts recidivism because now they will have a much harder time finding a job. Is it really fair to sentence someone to being jobless over a roach or a single gram (or even less) of marijuana? Do you, BGB, really think it's an efficient use of your department's time for you and your cohorts to spend hours arresting someone and lingering at the jail while the person is booked in over a roach that was laying under the seat of their car for possibly a few months, when you could be out looking for drunk drivers or other active threats to public safety? Many departments-- like Dallas-- are critically shorthanded as it is. Why waste manpower on such a petty offense as a joint or a few "funny gummy bears" when you could cite and release, and let the person move on from the transgression with a civil penalty ... and you can get back to "serving and protecting' the community? Then you won't be wasting precious time busting the person again later on because they committed a survival crime stemming from that low level arrest and criminal conviction that cost them a job or an opportunity to improve "themself" (awkward gender-neutral pronoun, I know... sorry!)

Anonymous said...

This is already how it's done. Regulating drunk and high employees is not a problem in 2018, it was solved years ago.

I work in aviation in a safety critical role, if I have a problem they have a way for me to get help and regulate my access to critical work. If I don't ask for help and I get caught or refuse testing I get fired on the spot and the FAA is notified preventing me from taking a job anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

I volunteer with Hospice and have for the better part of 20 years in states that consider MJ a cardinal sin.

Of my hospice patients that use MJ (to great benefit BTW) most get their supplies from Friends and Family. Often F&F suppliers are LEO even sworn DEA agents who see no disconnect between their day jobs and the F&F activities.

I don't smoke or drink (by choice, no care one way or the other if someone else does)

Why are we being so stupid in this regard? Did we not learn anything from the debacle of the Eighteenth Amendment?