Last week, Texas was slammed with seriously cold (for us, anyway) weather. Some people chalk this up to changes in the jet stream; others say it’s due to a disruption of El Niño or La Niña or perhaps Columbus’s other ship. I’ve even seen it attributed to a polar vortex (whatever that is – sounds like a Mannheim Steamroller album to me).
I’m here to tell you it’s none of these things. It’s cold here because hell has frozen over.
Perry dropped this bombshell at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. And while he didn’t go full Peter Tosh and recommend straight-up legalization, a la Colorado, he did suggest that lawmakers have better things to worry about.
You can’t argue with the numbers. In 2011, Texas made more than 70,000 weed-related arrests; 98 percent of these were for simple possession. During the same year, 90 percent of all reported burglaries and 88 percent of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved. So, yeah, maybe our cops do have better things to do than arresting people for smoking flowers.
Theoretically, Perry’s stance should not be a surprise. He’s a conservative (seriously – he makes Mussolini look like Wavy Gravy) and conservatives claim to be all about states’ rights, personal responsibility and less government intrusion. In practice, of course, conservatives can’t get enough government intrusion – especially when it comes to things that scare them, such as women and their lady bits, or weed.
Still, his pronouncement was a shocker. Cynics might dismiss his move as mere expediency. But at Davos he said, “We certainly would never jump out in front of a parade because that’s where the public seems to be going.”
Numbers suggest a different reality. In an October poll taken by the Marijuana Policy Project, 58 percent of Texas voters support making ganja legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol. By comparison, a mere 38 percent oppose it. So Perry’s new and unexpected chilled-out vibe could be a simple matter of knowing which way the wind is blowing (and perhaps opening a window and lighting some incense).
Also, the U.S. Justice Department announced in August that the Obama administration would give new latitude to states experimenting with taxation and regulation of marijuana. When the Feds actually start listening to the people – such as the people in 20 states who have said they want some degree of legalization, and those in the eight that are considering it – you know the times they are a-changin’. Perry’s nothing if not politically astute, and getting in front of this parade is a no-brainer for a politician who’d like to freshen his image and ride the inevitable.
Additionally, given the state’s money woes, it would be hard to argue with the economic benefits of legalization. In the first five days of legalization, Colorado raked in an estimated $5 million in taxes. That figure includes only the tax on weed sales and doesn’t take into account taxes on Dr Pepper, Visine and blacklight posters.
At any rate, Perry’s move has put a lot of people – myself included – in a very weird spot. I could never bring myself to vote for him – on my personal bucket list, that falls right between giving Ron Jeremy a full Brazilian and coming down with a candiru infestation. But decriminalization – if not full-on legalization – is long overdue and he’s the highest-profile and most powerful Texas pol to speak honestly (publicly, anyway) about it.
It will be interesting to see what stand gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis takes on this hot-button issue. If she decides to appeal to the 58 percent, she could start by tweaking her slogan from “Stand With Wendy,” to “Get Up, Stand Up With Wendy.”
This one’s free, Wendy, and good luck. And if you win, and you need an agriculture commissioner, I hope you’ll keep me in mind.