Ricky Jervis, USA Today
AUSTIN -- The Republican governor of Texas supporting less jail time for pot users?
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
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
"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.
said Ana Yañez-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 supported."
Perry has softened his stance on penalties for drug crimes over the
years, Yañez-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," Yañez-Correa said.
"He represents the transition the state has gone through from being
really, really tough on crime to being more sensible about it."
his comments from Davos were the strongest she's ever heard from him.
"It takes courage," she said. "There's a need for that."
MORE: President Obama On Which Is Worse: Marijuana or Alcohol