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On pot and prosecutions

I’m sure you’ve heard about President Obama’s remarks that marijuana isn’t really more harmful than alcohol. There’s plenty of evidence to back that assertion, but Harris County DA Devon Anderson strongly disagreed with him anyway.

Zonker

President Barack Obama’s recently published remarks calling marijuana less dangerous than alcohol has prompted Harris County’s District Attorney to release a response today which bolsters her profile as a “law and order” prosecutor.

“I adamantly disagree with the President. According to a 2012 Drug Use and Health survey, marijuana is the number one drug that citizens over the age of 12 are addicted to or abuse. The negative effects of marijuana use on a developing brain can be permanent, and our President is recklessly giving what amounts to parental permission to our most impressionable citizens to break the law. Marijuana is creating deadly situations right here in Harris County,” Devon Anderson said in the news release.

[...]

“I welcome the President to come to Houston to review the same capital murder cases I did just last week that were the result of marijuana drug deals,” Anderson’s statement said. “Maybe then he will see that the most effective way to keep our law-abiding citizens safe is to obey all laws that our legislators put on the books at our State Capitol.”

You can see her full statement here. Again, the evidence is overwhelmingly with President Obama on this, and I’d recommend you read folks like Mark Kleiman for some current research on drugs, alcohol and crime – start with this WaPo interview, or go read his blog, for which he is not the only author. For this particular piece, I’m going to outsource the argument to Mark Bennett. But seriously, in terms of crime and social costs, it’s more correct to say that President Obama understated the case than that he overstated it.

The Chron also asked both Democratic candidates for their reaction. I’ll skip Lloyd Oliver’s rambling answer and go right to the good stuff.

Ogg, a former Harris County prosecutor now in private practice, supports diversion programs for people apprehended with small amounts of pot.

“In 2013, more than 12,000 people were arrested for marijuana and sent to jail in Harris County at a cost of more than $4 million,” she said. “Marijuana is illegal in Texas but jailing offenders in possession of small amounts is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Instead, those funds should be spent prosecuting violent offenders, gang members and thieves. It makes more sense to divert that group of offenders to voluntary work programs that make them more employable and don’t result in license suspensions, time in jail and other factors that cause them to lose their jobs or become less employable.”

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Ogg, the former director of the city of Houston’s anti-gang task force and former executive director of Crime Stoppers of Houston has concluded – after 26 years in public safety work – that tougher marijuana enforcement isn’t what people want.

“They want to be safe. They want our focus and attention on the dangerous criminals,” she said. “There aren’t enough resources in Harris County nor is it fair to make people lose their jobs over minor offenses like possession of marijuana in small quantities.”

Ogg talked about this at length in the interview she did with me. Obviously, I agree with her perspective on this. I think she’ll have a lot of voters on her side for it as well. While I don’t expect anything to happen next session, or the session after that, there will continue to be legislative attempts to dial back penalties for pot smoking. As with many other things, we can get ahead of the curve, or we can scramble to catch up. Seems a pretty clear choice to me.

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5 Comments

  1. Joe White says:

    It is safer than alcohol. It should be treated no more harshly than alcohol. The President needs to back up us words with deeds, and call for the end of the War on Drugs and immediately pardon all prisoners with simple possession-related convictions.

  2. DNaguy says:

    Everything that DA Anderson says can be said about alcohol as well. Which would actually support the president’s assertion.

    Let’s see if we change a few things how it would play out:

    “I adamantly disagree with the President. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, in 2013 alcohol resulted in higher societal costs due to crime, lost work and healthcare than either tobacco or illegal drugs (http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics). The negative effects of alcohol use on a developing brain can be permanent, and our President is recklessly giving what amounts to parental permission to our most impressionable citizens to break the law. Drunk driving is creating deadly situations right here in Harris County,”

    So yeah, DA Anderson, you objections don’t hold any water. Unless you want to make all mind altering chemicals illegal, you’re being a hypocrite

  3. This is what Prohibition was about for many, not being puritanical. Women’s organizations were trying to stop domestic violence, especially in cities.

  4. andrew says:

    There is ongoing corruption at the Houston District 7 parole office.
    Ex offenders are being funneled into drug programs ISF sanction facilities and private prisons in what appears to be a kind of pay for play scheme.
    Parole officers are falsifying drug test results to reflect positive for which ever substance they choose in an effort to have offenders placed in these programs for pay.
    Parole officers are also being allowed to act as law enforcement officers by punishing “disruptive or unruly” offenders with jail time.
    This is truly unconstitutional and need s to be addressed.

  5. Another unconstitutionality that I”m sure happens all over Texas on alcohol, and drug, issues. Probation instead of jail time, but that includes mandatory 12-step attendance, a First Amendment violation.

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