FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Pat Robertson’s recent comments in support of the legalization of marijuana are now getting support from some religious leaders in North Texas.
Rev. Kyev Tatum said it’s something he’s been preaching about for years. “When you decriminalize the use of marijuana, you will decrease the number of young people who go into the criminal justice system, which subsequently means we save lives and we save money,” said Tatum, who is running for Congress.
But not everyone agrees that Robertson is using his platform in a healthy way. Eric Neidermayer, CEO of the Recovery Resource Council in Tarrant County, said Robertson is sending the wrong message.
“It ends up becoming justification for a lot of people. Pat Robertson said it’s okay so therefore it makes it okay. You know one person saying that doesn’t make it okay,” Neidermayer said.
Robertson has been quoted as saying that U.S. law enforcement “has gone overboard on this concept of being tough on crime,” which has, he says, resulted in overcrowded jails and overspending on non-violent inmates.
Jim Shaw, a Fort Worth attorney who represents 3 of the 18 TCU students recently arrested in a drug bust, says the majority of those who end up in jail are repeat offenders.
“It’s all but a mandatory probation in some instances. They don’t want those people in jail. They don’t want those people in state facilities. They want people to quit doing it,” he said.
All sides agree on one thing: the only way to deter drug use is prevention and treatment.
“It costs you over $30,000 to incarcerate them, where as with $10,000 you can rehabilitate them. It doesn’t make sense economically.” Tatum said.
Neidermayer added, “I don’t necessarily believe that everybody belongs in prison who has been arrested for possession of marijuana. I think in a lot of cases it’s about putting dealers in prison but in other cases, it’s about treatment.”
Neidermayer said Texas ranks 48th out all 50 states in money it gives to social services, such as drug prevention.
In 2007, Texas passed a law that allows local law enforcement the option to ticket people found in possession of 4 ounces of marijuana or less, instead of sending them to jail.
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