Governor Rick Perry of Texas, a stalwart conservative, raised some eyebrows on Thursday by telling an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he favors decriminalization of marijuana use. Perry did not go as far as saying that he favored the legalization of the controversial plant.
“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,” the governor stated. Perry wants to set up alternative “drug courts” that provide rehabilitation and counseling and offer reduced penalties for minor offenses.
Perry is not for the legalization of marijuana but defends states’ rights to make those choices. Perry added that he believes that Colorado is within the laws of the Constitution to experiment with decimalization for marijuana use. According to Perry, the federal government should not interfere with the laws of individual states. “I am a staunch promoter of the 10th Amendment,” Perry said, according to USA Today. The governor went on to say that states should be able to set their own policies on abortion, same-sex marriage, and marijuana legalization and “then people will decide where they want to live.”
Back home in Texas, some were surprised by Perry’s softening stance. “Shocked,” 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.”
Yañez-Correa says that she was impressed with Perry’s courage: “Perry has gone through a shift; he’s evolved. He represents the transition the state has gone through from being really, really tough on crime to being more sensible about it.”