South Texas assistant district attorney supports keeping marijuana illegal
I have wonderful news for Dave McNeely regarding his worries about Texas’ marijuana laws: He is dead wrong.
As presented in McNeely’s column on May 20, “Marijuana decriminalization snuffed out,” he worries about all the people sent to prison for smoking a joint. There is not a single bed in TDC being occupied by someone who was merely a “recreational user” of marijuana. Not one bed. The current law is that you have to have a quarter pound or more of marijuana to be a felony. Recreational users of marijuana never have more than at most half an ounce of marijuana. A half ounce makes 40 joints, and a single joint can get several people high. Anyone with four or more ounces of marijuana is a dealer. In fact, many dealers deal far less than four ounces of marijuana.
Possession of four ounces but less than five pounds of marijuana is a State Jail Felony, effectively a fourth-degree felony. By law, someone charged with such a crime must receive probation. And every probation program in the Texas requires the probationer to attend drug rehab and education classes. Probationers who fall off the wagon and continue to use drugs are typically given multiple chances to get with the program.
McNeely’s idea that Texas should spend money on drug education and rehabilitation instead of incarceration of drug dealers shows how little he knows. Texas spends millions of dollars every year on drug rehabilitation. Most of these programs would have very few takers if marijuana was legal. Their customers are there because they are on probation, and the choice they face is either go to the class or go to prison or jail.
McNeely, like a lot of marijuana advocates, thinks drug dealers are nonviolent sorts who are family men, very much like Ward Cleaver in the “Leave it to Beaver” TV sitcom from the 1960s. Sending these men to prison leaves their families destitute.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Drug dealers enforce their deals through violence. And their drugs encourage violence in their customers. Moreover, in my many years of experience as a prosecutor, including as a narcotics prosecutor, I have yet to meet the man who fits the Ward Cleaver profile so beloved by the marijuana supporters. Most of them are fathers only in the biological sense. Those who are involved in a family scene generally contribute to its dysfunction. Anyone who thinks drug use is a “victimless crime” needs to talk to some Children’s Protective Service social workers. Drugs, including marijuana, are often a big part of the mix that results in child abuse and neglect.
THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes intoxication, is fat soluble, meaning it accumulates in your fat. Alcohol is water soluble, which means it is expelled in one’s urine, sweat and breath and does not accumulate. If you drank one can of beer a day for a year, you would not be any more intoxicated 365 beers later than when you started. If you smoked a joint a day for a year, the THC will be in your fat, and will continue to increase as you continue to smoke marijuana.
Marijuana is not benign. It lowers one’s IQ, especially in the young, it affects your brain permanently if you smoke it long enough, and it harms your judgment. It makes you unsafe to drive or operate heavy machinery. Moreover, it is closely associated with anti-social behavior.
In probably 90 percent of the felony cases I see, the defendant has a prior conviction for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Michael Brown, the thug who attacked a Ferguson, Mo., police officer, was higher than a Georgia pine from marijuana when he committed his crime. We don’t need more pot heads in this state; we need fewer. The criminal laws on marijuana discourage its use and encourage rehabilitation.
By: Terry Breen
Terry Breen, of Goliad, is Assistant District Attorney with the 24th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. He prosecutes felonies in a rural three county district – DeWitt, Goliad and Refugio – from intake through trial. He may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This letter originally appeared at Victoria Advocate.
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