A Modest Proposal

  A Modest Proposal

Posted by CN Staff on March 30, 2007 at 09:21:11 PT
By Jordan Smith 
Source: Austin Chronicle  

Texas -- For the second legislative session in a row, Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, has offered a modest proposal to downgrade the criminal penalties associated with possession of small amounts of pot. Currently, possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail, meaning getting popped with even a single joint - or, worse, mere seeds and stems - could net a six-month stay in the county lockup.
With criminal justice costs spiraling and the jail and prison population bulging, this possible punishment seems, even on its face, a tad crazy.So Dutton proposes that low-level possession be downgraded to a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine. All things considered, Dutton's done a fairly good job of explaining the practical merits of his bill: It frees up law enforcement to deal with more serious crimes, as well as easing jail congestion while still providing a significant criminal penalty. He's evenhanded and steady and has kindly rebuffed any suggestion that he's a pawn in the "well-orchestrated" marijuana lobby plot to legalize pot, as a witness at the March 20 House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee hearing on the bill, House Bill 758, suggested. Aside from the fact that "well-orchestrated marijuana lobby" is, in large part, an oxymoron, it is also simply an asinine characterization that does nothing but suggest, again, that the government's long-standing propaganda regarding pot has been creepily successful. Indeed, I watch these sorts of hearings with a certain degree of angst: On the one hand, I'm excited to see more and more people come around to the idea that perhaps incarcerating casual pot smokers isn't good public policy - and is a serious strain on law-enforcement time and resources, as Bexar Co. Sheriff Dennis McKnight pointed out when speaking in favor of Dutton's measure. On the other hand, I know that at some point the witness statements will shift from being grounded in facts and will devolve into the condescending drugs-are-bad lectures - such as the one offered by licensed drug counselor Mitchell Moore, whose looking-down-the-nose tone in bashing Dutton's bill was enough to make your ears bleed. According to Moore, the government's assessment of the scourge of pot is the only view to be trusted, even in the face of research revealing - surprise, surprise! - that the feds, particularly the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy, have a special way of massaging statistics to provide the desired outcome. Regardless of what the research tells us about such measures - including empirical evidence from states that have already downgraded simple pot-possession penalties, similar to what Dutton is proposing - - Moore and fellow anti-bill witness Stephanie Haynes, from Save Our Society From Drugs, promised the committee that passing Dutton's measure would, "without a doubt," Haynes said, lead to an increase in drug use and, therefore, to a rise in "delinquent behavior." Clearly, these people have never smoked pot. But really, at the core, this bill is not about whether pot smoking is good or bad; it's a practical bill that seeks to strike a balance between criminal enforcement (and sound fiscal policy) and fundamental fairness ( and the guarantee of justice ). As Dutton pointed out, it appeared the bill's detractors hadn't even read the measure in its entirety before standing at the microphone and spouting off about how pot will cause the downfall of society - the kids'll be drugged out, they warned - and, Haynes said, we shouldn't forget about the "connection" between smoking pot and contracting schizophrenia ( as if it were as easy as all that - like catching a cold ). In fact, in response to legislators' concerns last session about what possible "message" this sort of measure might send to the kiddos, Dutton added a provision that would require anyone popped for minor possession to go through a drug-awareness-education class in addition to paying the class C misdemeanor fine. In the end, Dutton handled the hysterics of his bill's detractors in a most statesmanlike manner. At the end of the day, he said, he believes that handing out jail time for possession of as small an amount of pot as a single marijuana seed is "too harsh a punishment." But, if the point of the bill's foes is that punishment for pot possession isn't stiff enough, he said, then, "why not go back to making them all felonies?" Remember: There was a time when possession of a joint or two could earn a life sentence behind bars - "we could always go back to that, I suppose," he said. Newshawk: Hope Source: Austin Chronicle (TX)Author: Jordan SmithPublished: March 30, 2007Copyright: 2007 Austin Chronicle Corp.Contact: http://www.austinchronicle.comCannabisNews -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #8 posted by museman on March 31, 2007 at 11:42:23 PT
I actually have a good musician friend of mine who lives in Austin. He collaborated with me a couple of years ago over the net on a song that we used to play together. I still think the idea is cool, even though the industry is fast locking it down.I'd like to go to Austin someday -with some kind of resource - see and experience some of what I know is there.
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Comment #7 posted by potpal on March 31, 2007 at 04:53:41 PT
Worth noting
Opining that the U.S. had entered a period of "soft fascism," Paul noted that the legacy of the Bush administration has been the total abandonment of Constitutional principles. "Congress has generously ignored the Constitution while the President flaunts it, the courts have ignored it and they get in the business of legislating so there's no respect for the rule of law." said Paul.
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Comment #6 posted by mayan on March 31, 2007 at 04:33:30 PT
Ron Paul
At least someone is looking out for us...Impeach George W. Bush over North American Union agenda says Republican Presidential candidate:
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Comment #5 posted by mayan on March 31, 2007 at 04:27:17 PT
She is getting attacked from all sides. I hope more big names come to her aid.Dear 9/11 Family Members... Spanks Bill O'Reilly Who Tries To Attack Sheen, Cuban, Rosie & ABC (video): Gibson and Michelle Malkin Whip Up Frenzy Over Rosie O'Donnell and ABC:
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Comment #4 posted by mayan on March 30, 2007 at 18:19:19 PT
The Punishers
How will they feel when the tables are turned?THE WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN...Rosie Opens 9/11 Conspiracy 'View' Debate - Bill O'Reilly Implies ABC Should Fire O'Donnell After Remarks ( Vote to support Rosie!) 'Execute Rosie For Questioning the Government':'Reilly Attacks O'Donnell On 9/11, Iran Comments (video): News Protest - Calling All NYC Activists: Presents Challenges for Giuliani: WAS AN INSIDE JOB - OUR NATION IS IN PERIL:
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Comment #3 posted by Toker00 on March 30, 2007 at 16:03:20 PT
Yeah, museman.
Thanks for not covering us all up with that! Just kidding Bro. Don't forget, Austin is where one of the PNACERS were so rarely publicly heckled. That's pretty cool, huh? Austin was a Hippie Haven in the early seventies when cowboys and cowgirls got a little curious about dudes and chicks and things were not so bad! But it just didn't last. Laws scared away the Cowfolks and they turned against us. But it was fun for a summer or two...Toke.
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Comment #2 posted by Taylor121 on March 30, 2007 at 15:50:02 PT
Contact those officials if you haven't 
Please contact the members of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and urge them to support this bill and vote in its favor. Legislators especially like to hear from their own constituents, so if you recognize any of these names as your representative, please start with him or her. If you do not know who your state representative is, you can look that up here. If none of the committee members represent you, please just contact as many as you can.Rep. Aaron Pena — chair — (512) 463-0426 or (956) 383-7444Rep. Allen Vaught — vice-chair — (512) 463-0244 or (214) 370-8305Rep. Debbie Riddle — budget & oversight chair — (512) 463-0572 or (281) 537-5252Rep. Juan M. Escobar — (512) 463-0666 or (361) 592-6120Rep. Terri Hodge — (512) 463-0586 or (214) 824-1996Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway — (512) 463-0664Rep. Paul Moreno — (512) 463-0638 or (915) 544-0789Rep. Paula Pierson — (512) 463-0562Rep. Robert Talton — (512) 463-0460 or (281) 487-8818Full committee list to get to emails:
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Comment #1 posted by museman on March 30, 2007 at 10:46:00 PT
the right wing of the eagle
I have a bumper sticker that reads;"Somewhere in Texas there is a village missing an idiot." I'd pretty much figured (and I'm sure that was the intention) it was referring to George Bush. Aparrently it applies to cities as well, and all the ruffled feathers of the Republican Right Wing of the modern Roman Eagle.Of course the good people of Texas are overshadowed by a few idiots, just like everywhere else where the eagle squats.
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