Pubdate: Fri, 24 Jan 2014
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2014 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Rick Jervis, USA Today


Says That States Should Be
Able To Set Own Policies On Abortion, Gay Marriage And Marijuana

AUSTIN - The Republican governor of Texas supporting less jail time
for pot users?

Gov. Rick Perry, a staunch conservative, riled the Lone Star state
Thursday when he told an audience at the World Economic Forum in
Davos, Switzerland, that he supports the decriminalization - though
not the legalization - of marijuana use.

"As the governor of the second-largest state in the country, what I
can do is start us on policies that can start us on the road towards
decriminalization" by introducing alternative "drug courts" that offer
treatment and softer penalties for minor offenses, Perry said during
an international panel on drug legalization at the summit.

Perry was speaking alongside former United Nations secretary-general
Kofi Annan and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Perry emphasized that he is not for the legalization of marijuana but
defended states' rights to make those choices. He said it's perfectly
constitutional for states like Colorado to experiment with
decriminalization and that Washington should stay out of those decisions.

"I am a staunch promoter of the 10th Amendment," Perry said, according
to U.S. News & World Report. States should be able to set their own
policies on abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, he
said, "then people will decide where they want to live."

Annan praised Perry for "beginning to roll that (criminalization of
drugs) back in Texas."

Back in Texas, those who worked with Perry on criminal issues were
stunned at the public acknowledgement.

"Shocked," said Ana Yanez-Correa, director of the Texas Criminal
Justice Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group that favors drug
treatment over incarceration for marijuana possession. "The
decriminalization of marijuana is not something Perry has historically

However, Perry has softened his stance on penalties for drug crimes
over the years, Yanez-Correa said. He's worked with the group to
create drug courts that specialize in drug offenders and cut back the
amount of probation time required of offenders, she said. There are
currently about 15,000 drug offenders in Texas correctional facilities.

"Perry has gone through a shift; he's evolved," Yanez-Correa said. "He
represents the transition the state has gone through from being
really, really tough on crime to being more sensible about it."

Still, his comments from Davos were the strongest she's ever heard
from him. "It takes courage," Yanez-Correa said. "There's a need for
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