Rick Perry Speaks up for Decriminalizing Pot
AUSTIN (CN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday surprised the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland by speaking up for states that have decriminalized marijuana use.
The Republican governor spoke on a panel, "The Drugs Dilemma: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business." Its members included former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
Perry said that though Texas would "certainly never jump out in front of the parade of marijuana legislation," states have the right to decide for themselves.
Voters in Colorado and Washington states approved measures in November 2012 to tax and regulate marijuana.
"I am a staunch promoter of the 10th Amendment," Perry said, citing policies on abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization. He said citizens may take such state decisions into account when deciding where they want to live.
Perry said he does not support full legalization of marijuana use, but that "there are some alternatives without going that big full step and decriminalizing and sending a message to people" that drug use is acceptable, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Perry claimed that his administration has begun to "implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization" through drug courts that provide treatment and lesser penalties for minor crimes.
"Did we fight the war on drugs correctly every day? No," Perry said. "Has the war on terrorism been fought correctly every day? No. But the point is that after 40 years of the war on drugs, I can't change what happened in the past. What I can do as the governor of the second largest state in the nation is to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization and keeps people from going to prison and destroying their lives, and that's what we've done over the last decade."
Roth, a former federal prosecutor, urged Perry to stop prosecuting marijuana use and treat it as a public health issue rather than a criminal one.
"You decide, with your attorney general, which laws to enforce," Roth said.
"I'll disagree with you on that," Perry responded, saying laws are for courts to interpret.
Annan praised Perry for beginning to roll back drug criminalization in Texas.
"I think what you are doing is right ... and I applaud you," Annan said.