Rick Perry: Marijuana Decriminalization Backed by Texas Governor

Image: Rick Perry: Marijuana Decriminalization Backed by Texas Governor

Friday, 24 Jan 2014 03:15 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Rick Perry's stance on marijuana has changed, with the Texas governor saying that he would support the eventual decriminalization of the drug.

Speaking before an international panel on drug legalization at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Perry said, "As governor, I have begun to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization," the San Antonio Express reported.

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Perry Spokeswoman Lucy Nashed was quick to clarify the governor's comments, saying that the decriminalization of marijuana is different from the outright legalization of the illicit substance.

"Legalization is no penalty at all, whereas decriminalization doesn't necessarily mean jail time. It means more of a fine or counseling, or some sort of program where you don't end up in jail but in a rehabilitative program," Nashed told the Houston Chronicle.

"The goal is to keep people out of jails and reduce recidivism, that kind of thing," Nashed added.

Perry's new approach was welcomed by Ana Yañez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

"I am shocked," Yañez-Correa told the San Antonio Express. "I am very happy to hear the governor supports a more rehabilitative approach."

Perry did not address medicinal use of marijuana during the event.

In Texas, individuals who are caught with less than two ounces of marijuana can be jailed for up to 180 days and fined up to $2,000, the Houston Chronicle noted.

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the sale of marijuana last year, and now the District of Columbia, along with California, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., are planning their own voter-driven initiatives to legalize the drug.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, according to the government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In 2011, 18.1 million people illegally used the drug in the U.S.

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